January 10, 2007

DVD Review: Murder-Set-Pieces

Murder-Set-Pieces is a movie that only real hardcore horror fans who eagerly await anything to get their hands on. As for the more discerning horror buff, this is one that you could safely skip without really missing much. Far be it from me to tell you what to and what not to see, please, see it for yourself, make up your own mind. Frankly, I was bored and on the verge of sleep a couple of times. I finally started it over and made it through to the bitter end. It is a movie that really doesn't offer much to the genre, it strikes me as something of a demo reel of an amateur filmmaker desperately trying to get ahead by going over the top.

The disk I viewed is the recently released R rated cut from Lionsgate, it had previously been released in an unrated form by Fright Flix. That unrated version is long out of print. The R rated cut runs 83 minutes, while the earlier DVD is 90 minutes. I have also seen reports of the short run theatrical release being 105 minutes in length. It seems that wherever the movie goes it loses something along the way and I am left to wonder if either of those longer versions have anything more to offer than this heavily sanitized cut. The cover for this release contains a disclaimer: "Warning: Shocking, Horrific, Contoversial," a claim that I found to be rather laughable when I saw the R rating on the back. If the film was able to pass the MPAA with an R, I seriously doubted the validity of the marketing blurb slapped on the front to dupe unsuspecting gorehounds. This doesn't even mention the use of Gunnar Hansen, Tony Todd, and Cerina Vincent's names on the cover when they have a combined screentime of under 10 minutes.

Well, back to the matter at hand. The movie centers on a rather unsavory character known simply as the Photographer (there are only two characters with names in the entire movie). He is a fashion photographer, I presume, who also happens to go around killing strippers and prostitutes. You know, everyone has to have a hobby. He also happens to be the grandson of a proud Nazi officer, and the sins of the past are sure to haunt the present. Frequently, he is shown shouting German epithets at his soon to be victims.

I cannot say that there is much of a story at play. There is a girlfriend for our killer, but there is no believability to the couple. The only reason for this to even be here is to bring us the young girl who suspects that the Photographer is not quite the sweetie that her sister believes him to be. So what, it never really leads anywhere and when the climax finally arrives, it could not come any sooner.

The internet has been abuzz about the graphic nature of the movie, something I did not experience in this sanitized cut. The vast majority of the kills are done off screen which really leaves the film as a series of loosely connected scenes that don't have any cohesion. I have no reason to care about anyone. The poor acting doesn't help either.

I like the sick and the twisted, but I also like to have a little bit of substance to go along, or at least a little deranged fun. Sadly, Murder-Set-Pieces fails to deliver. Sure, there is depravity and gore, but there is nothing to anchor it. I can only assume that the stuff that would tie it all together was left on the editing room floor. This leaves me to wonder if I should thank Lionsgate for ruining a movie, or the filmmakers for delivering a movie that was just bad to begin with.

Upon retrospect, I think it is some combination of the two. I am certain that the cut material would have given this a little more to go on, but I doubt that it would be enough to save it. The acting is poor, the dialogue awful, and the editing (Lionsgate?) amateurish. It is not a movie that I can recommend, at least in this form. This doesn't even get into the use of 9/11 footage that I found to be in very poor taste, even for a gory, exploitive horror film.

Audio/Video. Neither one is terribly good, serviceable yes, but not good. The video is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 and falls to the dark and soft side of the scale. The audio is just there, nothing terribly special.

Extras. One lone extra is offered here. The case lists deleted scenes, but they are nowhere to be found on the disk.
  • Commentary. This track features the director, Nick Palumbo, the star, Sven Garett, and couple of others whose names escape me. The track is rather humorous, it exposes Palumbo as being an amateur who prides himself on his knowledge of horror films and overestimates his own abilities. He attempts to rationalize the inclusion of the 9/11 footage by saying it is to show how the world is falling apart. I don't know, I am just not terribly impressed with the man behind the madness, and this track pretty much solidifies my opinion. It was also revealed that many of the strippers and prostitutes were not actresses, they actually were strippers and prostitutes.

Bottomline. This is not a good movie. It doesn't matter how you slice it, it is an amateur work from someone who thinks too highly of himself. Sure, I would have liked to have seen what the real cut of the film looked like, with the much talked about child murder scene intact. Man, I was just completely bored by this film. It left me cold at the end, I really didn't care about anything or anyone. Oh well, better luck next time.

Not Recommended.


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