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Murder-Set-Pieces - Theatrical Cut Print E-mail
User Rating: / 44
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Written by Chris Mayo   
Thursday, 30 June 2005

MURDER-SET-PIECES Poster - SEVERED-CINEMA.COM

Directed by: Nick Palumbo
Written by: Nick Palumbo
Produced by: Nick Palumbo
Cinematography by: Brendan Flynt
Music by: The Bronx Casket Company, Eric Galligan, The Giallos Flame, Necrophagia, Zombi
Cast: Sven Garrett, Jade Risser, Tony Todd, Cerina Vincent, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal
Year: 2004
Country: USA
Color: Color
Runtime: 105 Minutes


Official Website: http://www.frightflix.com/

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“The most visceral horror film ever made”

When I initially heard that Toe Tag Pictures were off to Las Vegas, to create the FX for a new independent shot-on-film Slasher movie called Murder-Set-Pieces, I was pretty excited.  Toe Tag’s FX in August Underground and Mordum were of top quality and as realistic as it gets, especially for independent cinema.  I figured even if this film was mediocre, then I would at least be viewing their FX on 35mm.  I have finally viewed 
Murder-Set-Pieces, and Toe Tag’s work does hold up to my expectations, but does the movie itself?

As of late, there has been an internet stir revolving around the self-proclaimed promotion the film exhibits as a selling point.  The official website gives such descriptions as “rape and torture, graphic sex and ultra violence, abduction and child murder”.  It even claims the film contains “never-before-seen 35mm film of 9/11 terrorist footage”, and how they also embrace their NC-17 rating.  Take what you like from these statements. Many have and possibly will denounce the film, marking these statements off as a selling gimmick, but this will also entice viewers.  This is nothing new; the Horror genre has always relied on marketing and other gimmicks to get people into theatres.  The whole ‘It’s only a movie’ line has been used by such films as Last House on the Left, and later Last House on Dead End StreetThe Exorcist was declared as being the scariest film ever made and now just about every lackluster horror event from Hollywood is compared to The Exorcist or The Blair Witch Project.  What about back in the 70’s when theatres handed out official barf bags during such films as Cannibal Man, Mark of the Devil, or even most recently Takashi Miike’s film Ichi the Killer at the Toronto International Film Festival. Even William Castle was famous for the shameless gimmicks he used back in the 50’s and 60’s.  For his 1958 film Macabre, admission to the theatre included an insurance policy issued by Lloyds of London against “death by fright”. He even gave out badges to the attendees that read “I’m no chicken. I saw Macabre.”  SNUFF even went so far as to simulate the murder of a cast member for a fake marketing ploy to claim the film was genuine snuff.  These are all simply marketing techniques to crowd the theatres.  
Murder-Set-Pieces has done the exact same thing.  It’s just a throwback to films we grew up with.  This simply isn’t a shallow new idea -- so in that line of thinking -- if it works, use it.

The primal plotline for
Murder-Set-Pieces follows a burly neo-Nazi photographer (Sven Garrett) who prowls the streets of Sin City with an affinity for dead whores.  Under the guise of a professional photographer, he lures prostitutes from the streets and photographs them.  This materializes into an eventual bloodbath, complete with rape and torture.  Sitting on the sidelines is Jade (Jade Risser), the 11-year-old little sister of Charlotte, our killer’s girlfriend.  Jade speaks openly with her friend of how her sister Charlotte’s boyfriend gives her the creeps, and how her sister just can’t see past her infatuation with our villain.  She is utterly oblivious to what a creep he is.  During a dinner with Jade’s sister and the photographer, Jade makes a comment about how bloody his steak is.  “It's ironic. Women suck blood out of men every day. But at the end of every month, it leaks out.” he replies, which should be an indication to Charlotte the type of person her boyfriend really is, but uneventfully so.  Will the fate of Jade’s sister and the whole of Las Vegas rest in the hands of an 11-year-old girl?

Murder-Set-Pieces does live up to some of its self-proclaimed reputation. While I don’t believe it to be “the most controversial film in history”, it is a violent, nasty, and sometimes disturbing portrait of a misogynistic serial killer only a Fulci could love.  Sven Garrett, while mostly emotionless and stone-faced, arguably does a great job as our lead.  He depicts the brashness and primitiveness of human nature.  Many have grumbled about his performance as being flat and one dimensional, but this neo-Nazi wasn’t the Ted Bundy of serial killer’s, but rather a handsome muscle-bound Ed Kemper.  His hatred for women spawned from his mother, who he killed as a child.  These sequences are shown through cool railroad flashbacks, with a soundtrack reminiscent of a nursery rhyme theme written for an Argento film.  Through his skewed Nazi perception it seems the photographer’s goal is to rid the world of evil, by wasting prostitutes and strippers, but not before he rapes and batters them.   When not picking up whores, our killer is lifting weights in his dungeon of torture (which gives The Texas Chain Saw Massacre a run for its money in prop and set design), drinking blood, or gobbling on a rotted torso.  All the requisite psycho murderer characteristics are here.   Murder-Set-Pieces has Chainsaws, straight razors, putrefied skulls, hot chicks, masses of nudity, bloody FX work by Toe Tag, and a severed head blowjob (Haute Tension anyone).  Not to mention some crazy shit involving blood, a straight razor, an infant and a dead mother.

The cameos in M-S-P have been widely publicized as well, but one of the main highlights of the film was the porno “book” store sequence with Tony Todd (Candyman), and the Toe Tag crew.  This sequence added a little extra to the film, letting the overall storyline sit on the sidelines for a moment, while still blending the mayhem in society theme of M-S-P into this scene.  This porno shop sequence adds to the film’s depiction that the world has gone to shit.  By exhibiting this sequence containing violence, not controlled by the photographer, the director shows the degradation of our society.  People senselessly die in this very shootout.  Additionally, the 9/11 footage fits into the film through this theme and was inserted into the script through nightmare sequences.  Garrett’s character has frequent nightmares, while blood pours from his nose.  These nightmares contain murder victims from his past, which haunt him in his sleep.  In addition to his victims his dreams are also plagued with the events that have affected everyone’s life; 9/11.  Regardless of the reasoning behind this footage in the film (for marketing or otherwise), I believe the footage works in the context of the movie.  Apparently the very footage used was shot by the film’s cinematographer, Brendan Flynt.

The only shortcoming I felt with
Murder-Set-Pieces was the German dialog with the photographer and his captors.  I was somewhat baffled as to how I was feeling during these (unknown to me, I don’t speak German) monologs, due to the absence of subtitles.  They became redundant and less effective, but I don’t believe they would have if I knew the dialogue the photographer was spouting.  If you took into context maybe, his family background (Grandfather being a Nazi for Hitler), then you may be able to dig up a prison camp mentality the killer presents towards his victims.  I simply didn’t dig that deep into the film.  Admittedly, upon watching M-S-P a second time the German dialog didn’t trouble me as much.  Some minor less than perfect acting was to be seen as well through smaller characters, but in a slash-‘em-up film such as this, amateur acting is trivial.

Overall, Murder-Set-Pieces isn’t a “masterpiece”, but it is an excellent film that does deliver the goods -- it all depends on what you’re looking for.  With a film like this, I don’t want to be mystified with a brilliantly unique script or performances by an all star cast.  I want a brutal Slasher film that doesn’t let up or hold back on what it wants to show.  That is what Nick Palumbo gives the viewer with this film.  If you want to be enlightened you should read a book, study philosophy or watch an avant-garde film, but don’t watch a film titled Murder-Set-Pieces!  If you’re looking to be entertained with a 35mm American Slasher film like no other, which includes great cinematography, atmosphere, set design, and a fantastic score then look no further than Murder-Set-Pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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