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Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film
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by Todd LaPlace

"Bloody close"
4 stars

There’s an odd dichotomy in slasher documentary “Going to Pieces” between those segments for the casual horror watcher and the crazy slasher fanatic. One long segment is devoted to the independent release and subsequent success of “Halloween” as the first slasher film, but that’s old news to any horror fan. A different section is played largely as a love letter to makeup and special effects mainstay Tom Savini, a name of little value to the informal fan. The doc tries to cater to both groups, and although the film is interesting, there’s simply too much to pack into such a short documentary.

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I remember watching the less-than-classic horror movie “Mikey” at my friend John’s house (where, not so coincidentally, I also saw “It” for the first time — blood and gore was apparently a family ritual). It featured youngest Keaton son Andy (Brian Bonsall) as the title psychopath, who murdered his victims by kicking radios into hot tubs and using a slingshot to fire bullets at his teachers. In short, he was not a well-adjusted kid. He did, however, in typical horror fashion, turn out to be somewhat indestructible — I’m pretty sure he was stuck in the middle of his house when it exploded, but he still came out without a scratch on him.

While “Mikey” didn’t make the cut of discussed movies (and with good reason), the convention of the eternal killer is just one of many topics featured in the documentary “Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film.” Based on Adam Rockoff’s book of the same name, the doc traces the horror subgenre from its roots in films like “Psycho” and Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” through the latest crop of blood-soaked gorefests like “Hostel,” “House of 1000 Corpses” and “Saw,” but such mid-level slashers are wisely given the footnote treatment. The film is forced to cover the big four — the originator (“Halloween”), the legitimizer (“Friday the Thirteenth”), the resurgence (“A Nightmare of Elm Street”) and the satire (“Scream”) — but it also wisely delves into the smaller films of the ’80s, like “Prom Night,” “Happy Birthday to Me,” “Slumber Party Massacre” and the transvestite camp classic “Sleepaway Camp.” Discussing such small films is a pleasant surprise that elevates the documentary beyond the simple “for the masses” films and TV specials that regurgitate the same information over and over again.

But in an effort to appeal to everyone, is the film actually too broad? The film spends excessive amounts of time debating the merits of “Friday the Thirteenth” and glosses over such classics as “Last House on the Left,” “Black Christmas” and most surprising, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” So many of the most interesting bits are stuffed between interviews with Wes Craven and John Carpenter (walking through a graveyard, no less), strictly because the slasher flick is too rich a genre for such a short, extensive documentary. With the genre having such strong links to the 80s, it makes sense that many slasher films deal with Reaganomics, the AIDS epidemic and feminism, but the film only has room to quickly mention such links. Even the more discussed subjects, like critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s adamant disapproval of the genre for being misogynist or the parental controversy surrounding the killer Santa of “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” aren’t given their proper due. There’s so much potential here, just sadly, not enough time to fulfill it.

The content of “Going to Pieces” is definitely intriguing and worthwhile, but they’re simply trying to pack too much of a good thing into too little a space. The picture provides a great, simple overview, but none of the in depth discussion that would have made this good film great.

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originally posted: 10/28/06 15:26:42
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell interesting 3 stars
4/07/08 Jack Sommersby Passable but far from revelatory. 3 stars
11/04/06 Jason Jahns Worthwhile, but too much coverage of the popular titles 3 stars
10/28/06 William Goss Unevenly preaches to the choir, but still worth a look for genre fans. 3 stars
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  13-Oct-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2007



Directed by
  Jeff McQueen

Written by

  John Carpenter
  Wes Craven
  Betsy Palmer
  Tom Savini
  Rob Zombie

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