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Murder, Set, Pieces

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // January 9, 2007
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted April 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
What happens when most of the exploit falls away from an exploitative film like Murder Set Pieces?

Somehow, it earned a reputation as quite the brutally violent and uncomfortable film. That is perfectly true, as this film can undoubtedly induce potent levels of discomfort. Nick Palumbo's entry into the slasher genre keeps things simple, essentially featuring gore, nudity, and a simple story involving a pair of sisters.

However, when the grisliness mostly vanishes from this flick, all that remains is the barren flesh and skeletal plot without any meat on the bones. Granted, Murder Set Pieces doesn't sport much substance in the first place; however, with most of the "controversial" material scooped out for an edited R-rating, what's left is a seemingly empty shell.

Note: This review is based purely on viewing Murder Set Pieces in its form on this Lions Gate DVD which has been edited to tone down the material. A DVD Talk Review of the Director's Cut can be found here

The Film:

When a buff Nazi pornographer ramps up his irritation with testosterone-injected hostility, then the wheels are set in motion for one blitzed ride. Somehow, this photographer possesses the charisma to woo women into nude photo shoots through his stern, blatantly rabid demeanor. Aggression and psychoses begin to faze into play once darkness seeps into this city of sin. The brute satisfies his severe homicidal tendencies upon the brazen harlots of Las Vegas nightlife as the sun escapes into the horizon. The extent and full catalyst of his psychological misconstruction remains a mystery, though it seems vaguely rooted in his familial past.

Like a predator stalking his potential prey, this crazed killer has built a relationship fa├žade with an attractive hairdresser and her younger sister, Jade. For reasons unknown, the hairdresser has fallen for the Nazi photographer, even with an observant sibling and her spouting warnings. He ventures out, night after night, slicing up beautiful women, all the while leaving this particular family unscratched for his nasty, alternate torment. It must be tough for young Jade to live around a guy that practically radiates evil, especially when her close friend finds him attractive and her enamored sister naively sees ... well, something in him.

Murder, Set, Pieces' stylish demeanor resembles a stripped, anemic carcass of American Psycho that lacks strength in sociological satire and characterization. Though shot with atmospherically potent skill across the film, only one speckle of tension surfaces near the climax when the narrative hits an obscure, edgy spike. There's a plentiful horde of nudity and grueling scenarios, but they all tumble and tediously ooze at an exceptionally dull pace. Put bluntly, Murder Set Pieces lacks much of any form of enjoyment.

It's not to say the concept is a complete flop, either. There is some uncomfortable, albeit weakly executed, critique at work underneath the grueling context. It's just not given the substance needed to add any weight to the brutality. The antagonist, played by Sven Garrett, could actually hold some promise behind a fuller, more dynamic narrative. Rugged and brooding with pure evil behind a scathing appearance, his Nazi rage-driven killer holds a speckle of potential through appearance alone. It's another lost case of potential buried beneath the lackluster execution of a blurred narrative.

Most of the film isn't horror in a frightful sense, but more the foundation for a bloodbath montage. Undoubtedly, Palumbo's film makes no bones about this flick being a pure, repulsive slash fest. Any remnant of an intelligible story just escapes quietly, while the rest of the film stomps and flails around trying to make as much noise as possible. It exists solely to display a fluent a level of bombast. A film like Murder Set Pieces needs to have edge-of-the-seat suspense to maintain audience interest, and this concoction doesn't satiate that necessity.

The DVD:

Lions Gate has presented Murder Set Pieces in a standard keepcase DVD with unusual, albeit misleading coverart and replicated discart.

Maybe it's because of this edited cut of Murder Set Pieces that the film seemed severely lacking. Any "shocking" or "controversial" scenes in the film seem haphazardly snipped at the drop of a hat with this shorter cut of the film. Roughly 20+ minutes shorter, as it seems. However, even with reinstated carnage, this piece would still purely exist as an uncomfortable insight into the mind of a misguided psycho with some intense gore sequences. In this case, with drained exploitation, there seems to be no reason for this edition of Murder Set Pieces.

The Video:

Murder Set Pieces comes presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen presentation. The image isn't abysmal, but undoubtedly bland. On players capable of quality zooming, the film's detail comes through decently with suitably saturated coloring. It's a deterrent, without question, that doesn't add anything to the film presented.

The Audio:

A 5.1 audio track is available, as well as a Dolby 2.0 presentation. Through the 5.1 audio, voices were marginally crisp, sounding a bit stringent and high-pitched without much depth. More importantly, a persistent popping occurred in the 5.1 track that forced away any positive thought on that presentation. The 2.0 track, however, was audible and quite tolerable without the distortion. I hoped this only occurred at one point in the film; however, shifting between audio options proved to be a disappointment as the popping was film-wide on the . Subtitles are available in Spanish.

The Extras:

A Director's Commentary is included that dissects the film's creation fairly well, though it's probably the same commentary from the prior edition. Accompanied by Sven Garret and Art Ettinger, this commentary is vastly more enjoyable than the film itself. It describes a lot of the strife the filmmakers had to endure to make this picture, especially concerning reactions from some of the actors. Also, hearing the process of thought and development of the film is a good listen. Though it ramps up a high level of self indulgent praise, interesting nuggets of info are undoubtedly present and worth a shot.

Other than the commentary and a Scene Selection, the only other extra is a Lions Gate Trailer Gallery.


Final Thoughts:

A controversial and grotesque film might be worth a rent purely to see the taboo content, as many a gore fiend might incline. Murder Set Pieces might be one of those films. However, with everything abnormal scraped away from the film in an effort to tame such a feral animal with more bark than bite, there's nothing to see at this crime scene. Skip It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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