Saturday, February 18, 2012


I have to admit. GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM is a great documentary that focuses on the slasher film boom of the 1980s - how it rose after the mega success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH and fell after the decline of films like SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. It then goes onto chronicle the post-"Golden Age" films, such as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, APRIL FOOL'S DAY, SCREAM, and even the more recent SAW franchise. The movie also briefly touches on films like PSYCHO, PEEPING TOM, and the Giallo thrillers from Italy.

However, there are a lot of things missing from the documentary. Take, for instance, no mention of Agatha Christie novels from the 1930s and 40s, such as AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Or, that while they acknowledge Psycho and Peeping Tom from 1960, they neglect a French film that is basically the original slasher/splatter hybrid, EYES WITHOUT A FACE. How can any real documentary on the slasher genre ignore Eyes Without a Face, which is not only an important film to the genre but also a historically important picture, for it was among the first films of the influential French New Wave.

Going to Pieces also jumped over nearly 20-years of filmmaking with barely a nod at them. We learn of the success and influence of Psycho and Peeping Tom in 1960 and then leap to 1978 with the release and success of Halloween. Yes, Halloween is probably the single-most important slasher film ever made. But there was a lot that led up to Halloween. Take, for instance, the rise of the exploitation film after the success of Psycho, which led to the creation of the splatter genre - Herschell Gordon Lewis' extra gory features from the mid-60s and early 70s, such as TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! and THE GORE-GORE GIRLS. There was also the original "babysitter in peril" flick, FRIGHT, which certainly had an influence on later films like WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and, of course, Halloween.

The documentary mentions THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but glances over their impact. Both of these movies had a tremendous impact. They spawned their own imitations such as DERANGED, DON'T GO IN THE BASEMENT, EATEN ALIVE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, among countless others.

Even Black Christmas does not get its rightful due. John Carpenter has admitted that without Black Christmas, Halloween would never have been made. In fact, Halloween originally started out as a sequel to Black Christmas before it took its own story and form.

What the documentary does best is document the actual slasher film craze that ran after the success of Halloween in 1978, boomed with the success of Friday the 13th and PROM NIGHT in 1980, and then died out in 1983 and 1984 with films like SLEEPAWAY CAMP and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

The filmmakers behind Going to Pieces do know their material. They definitely are not hacks. But they also don't have enough time to really make the movie they must have originally set out to make. The film is half the length it should have been. Rather than barely being an hour and a half long, Going to Pieces should have been at least a two and a half hour documentary, maybe even a three hour documentary. There is simply so much history with the slasher genre and its major contributions - and the stories behind them - that any filmmaker needs to have the necessary time to explore the genre in full.

I mean, really, while Scream certainly got its segment, they completely glossed over the post-Scream slashers, only showing a photo from I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Whether people like it or not, the post-Scream slasher films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and URBAN LEGEND are apart of the genre's history now. There is no mention of slasher revivals like HALLOWEEN H20 and BRIDE OF CHUCKY (speaking of Chucky, where is the entire CHILD'S PLAY saga in this documentary?).

It would have also been nice to look at the continuing of the franchise - it has now been broken down into four different groups; foreign hardcore slasher films like HIGH TENSION and COLD PREY, straight to DVD films like AMUSEMENT and THE HILLS RUN RED, torture porn like the Saw franchise and HOSTEL, and of course the remake craze like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and HALLOWEEN.

It's not that Going to Pieces is in any way a bad documentary on the slasher genre, it's just that its not a complete one. But for your viewing, its probably the best one out there.

Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
American Grindhouse (2010)
The American Nightmare (2000)

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