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Murder Set Pieces
cast: Sven Garrett, Gunnar Hansen, Cerina Vincent, Edwin Neal, and Tony Todd

director: Nick Palumbo

80 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
Danger After Dark DVD Region 2 retail
[released 31 March]

RATING: 1/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
Due to the advance online hype associated with Murder Set Pieces, I pretty much psyched myself up prior to viewing the film, which is something I haven't done for a long time. The reviews and publicity led me to believe that I was in for a rough ride; astonished blurbs proclaimed it the most gruelling, intensely graphic film of all time. I should have known better than to believe the hyperbole.

Instead of some balls-to-the-wall gore-fest, I found myself watching a rather tame, terribly acted, bum-number of a film that didn't seem to quite know what it wanted to be. Two parts exploitative slasher with delusions of art-house credibility, one part sub-Corman thriller: one whole lame duck of a movie.

During the course of the film, we are treated to scene after repetitive scene of build-up to murders, only for the camera to pull away when the (all female; all sexy; all scantily clad) victims are dispatched. Not that I'm complaining. Torture-porn doesn't really rock my boat; I prefer more subtle chills. But isn't the promise of mindless gore and the chance to appreciate some creative special effects makeup the sole reason for a film like this one being made?

A monotonous, oddly-accented voiceover, equipped with laughable yet utterly banal dialogue, keeps telling us that we are shaped by what we experience during childhood; disjointed flashbacks seem to hint at the rather radical psychological theory that watching your semi-naked mother dance on an empty railway track will turn you into a sociopath and a serial killer. Maybe I missed something and this was a heavily edited version of the film (after writing this review I discovered that the region 2 DVD version is indeed heavily edited.); but I've been more disturbed and offended by the content of an episode of Holby City than this dull, brainless twaddle.

I felt that the filmmakers were trying to draw comparisons with titles like William Lustig's Maniac and Abel Ferrara's Driller Killer, and they were certainly referencing John McNaughton's modern masterpiece, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer; but these comparisons only serve to illuminate how poor Murder Set Pieces fares against its more noble (if that's the right word) progenitors and how utterly redundant it is. There is no underlying moral code; no examination of a psychotic mind, and simply no reason at all for this pathetic film to exist.

Compared to genuine, serious examples of extreme cinema like Jim Van Bebber's Charlie's Family or Gasper Noe's Irreversible, this bilge just doesn't cut it. The film fails at every conceivable level - even going so far as to commit what I see as the cardinal sin for a supposedly offensive exploitation film, and boring this viewer into a state of apathy. I didn't even dislike it; there was nothing on display here to stir even negative emotions. I just sat and ate a bag of crisps, thinking about the list of things I had to do at work the next day. I did manage to do a nice doodle of a monster in my ring-bound notebook.

In fact the only thing that disturbed me about Murder Set Pieces was the terrible realisation that I wasted 90 minutes of my valuable time watching it. All I can say is, thank God for fast-forward...
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