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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Documentary > Going To Pieces – The Rise & Fall Of The Slasher Film (THINKFilm) + The Burning (MGM) + Silent Night, Deadly Night (Anchor Bay) DVDs

Going To Pieces – The Rise & Fall Of The Slasher Film (THINKFilm) + The Burning (MGM) + Silent Night, Deadly Night (Anchor Bay) DVDs


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-/C/C     Documentary/Films: B/C+/C+



When the slice & dice cycle that followed John Carpenter’s Halloween (reviewed elsewhere on this site) arrived, it sported more graphic and daring gore effects for the time, but was a reversal of many of the key horror films (many of which were graphic) pushing the boundaries in the 1970s.  Many thought of them as reactionary and playing into the hands of the ideological Right, but they were a picnic as compared to the quasi snuff torture porn cycle we are still seeing today.  Three DVDs have recently arrived to remind us of the difference.


Going To Pieces – The Rise & Fall Of The Slasher Film (2006) is the first documentary to cover this period and do it so well, showing how brief but intense it really was and despite the continued popularity of such films, is a much forgotten and shockingly undocumented.  This entertaining 88 minutes program shows how big that period was, how it was the last big independent movement in cinema and how great the promotion still was for the smallest B-film out of a sense of actually selling the product and even having some pride in it.  It is must-see viewing for all film fans, even if you never liked these films.


To show just how different the films were, two of the more interesting examples have arrived on DVD.  Less known is The Burning from 1981, an early entry in the cycle involving the then-on-the-rise Weinsteins with some interesting participants of note, including a teen-aged Jason Alexander as one of the teens, Tom Savini doing the make-up and Rick Wakeman (of the progressive Rock band Yes) supplying the score.  The title refers to a young man being picked on who is accidentally killed, only to return as a killer for revenge burned all over his body.  They made him a killer.


The psychology is loose, but in this genre, it can be so slight as to be a joke.  This is the case with Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) which is towards the end of the cycle, still controversial after four bad sequels and a subject for Right-Wing extremists as a film that is somehow ruining the Christmas holiday (those extremists beat the film to it back in the 1980s) as a young boy learns to fear Santa Claus after seeing one rape and kill his mother.  When he grows up, he becomes a killer Santa, but the script is absolutely idiotic, making the film amusing for the wrong reasons, on top of the fact that it wants to rip off the original versions of Halloween and especially Black Christmas, down to the killer being named Billy.  As compared to Glen Morgan hack snuff remake, it seems highly ambitious.


As compared to the new cycle, one of the worst in cinema history, these actually had some suspense, even if they were stupid films.  Stupid enough that the cycle was so brief, but still ambitious by comparison.  Fortunately, most of the current snuff porn has died a quick death at the box office (especially from Morgan and hack Eli Roth) making it a less successful trend.  Now you can see for yourself.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Pieces is about the equal of the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image the feature films.  The “pieces” edited together for the documentary are done nicely, with some clips being in better shape than others, while the prints for the features are in better shape that expected for their age if not perfect.  Night used two different quality prints to include excises footage, but the copies are not as bad as expected.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is barely stereo on the documentary and absolutely monophonic on the features.  The combinations in each case are what you would expect for the cycle.


Extras include a trailer, trivia game, bonus interviews, message form the author and very good makers audio commentary on Pieces, audio commentary by Maylam with journalist Alan Jones on Burning and stills, trailer, critical clips sample and audio interview with Sellier on Night.  All three make it interesting to revisit the era.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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