Murder-Set-Pieces (2004) Movie Review

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“Murder-Set-Pieces” comes with the claim of being the most brutal and visceral horror film ever made, proudly boasting of being banned by a long list of festivals, as well as several processing labs. On top of this, the film has now been withdrawn from circulation for suitably shady ‘legal reasons’, all of which certainly seems to suggest that it is indeed the genuine article. Unfortunately, or perhaps inevitably, the film fails to live up to the hype, and despite a few moments of severe unpleasantness, it is simply too ludicrous and ham-fisted to be truly disturbing. Although it’s easy to see why the film has managed to put a few noses out of joint, thanks to some cynically chosen taboo breaking scenes. Nevertheless, the film is quite plainly an empty exercise in the cheapest of shocks and one which never makes any effort to be believable, or to assault the viewer in any way other than through the obvious on screen splatter.

The plot follows a Las Vegas serial killer known only as ‘the photographer’ (a pantomime performance by Sven Garret) as he stalks, tortures and butchers an assortment of women, most of who appear to be strippers. At the same time, he somehow manages to maintain a relatively normal relationship with his oblivious girlfriend, despite her pre-teen sister’s suspicions that something sinister is lurking behind his stoic façade. There really is very little more to the film than this.

“Murder-Set-Pieces” lives up to its title by being essentially a collection of kill scenes interspersed by some excruciatingly lame dialogue. Despite this, director Nick Palumbo seems to have delusions of grandeur, pitching the film as some kind of savage commentary on the breakdown of society in the same manner as “American Psycho”. This is of course an oft quoted excuse for showing extreme carnage, and one which never really rings true in “Murder-Set-Pieces”, as the film is too clumsy to be seen as anything other than low grade exploitation.

Also, there is no attempt made to explore the mind of the murderer, and as a character, ‘the photographer’ is decidedly uninteresting. Other than his Nazi leanings and some vague suggestions of early abuse, no reason is given for his maniacal behaviour, and as such he never comes across as a realistic or believable screen monster. Far too many other aspects of the film are impossible to take seriously, such as the somewhat camp central psycho’s frequent ranting in German, or the fact that it is impossible to imagine him ever managing to pass as normal, let alone being able to charm his female victims.

The constant stream of cameos by well known genre figures such as Tony Todd (the “Final Destination” movies) and Gunnar Hansen only serve to dilute the film’s impact, as do the awful wisecracks and puns which pepper the script, most of which are cheap enough to make even Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street ” fame blush. As such, the film lacks any real kind of intensity, and never comes close to the likes of Eric Stanze’s shocking “Scrapbook”.

“Murder-Set-Pieces’s” infamy really results from two scenes, one of which is the use of real life 9/11 footage. This clearly has no place in the film, and has no point other than for Palumbo to falsely claim some kind of relevance. The other scene features the murder of a child which, though shocking enough, is so clearly signposted and underlined as being an important part of the film that it feels distastefully manipulative more than anything else, and again smacks of a distinct lack of imagination on the filmmaker’s part.

To be fair, “Murder-Set-Pieces” does deliver in terms of blood, and is quite likely to satiate even the most jaded of gore-hounds. It should be noted, however, that the vast majority of this comes in the form of after the fact grime or headache inducing montages which come complete with flashing lights and loud heavy metal music. However, these additions in no way compensates for the fact that “Murder-Set-Pieces” is substandard in virtually every other department, and in no way comes close to justifying the film’s very existence. Palumbo’s film is likely to appeal to only the least discerning of genre fans, and even then as nothing more than a passing curiosity, and one which fails to live up to its reputation.

Nick Palumbo (director) / Nick Palumbo (screenplay)
CAST: Sven Garrett …. The Photographer
Tony Todd …. Clerk
Cerina Vincent …. Beautiful Girl
Gunnar Hansen …. Nazi Mechanic
Edwin Neal …. Good Samaritan
Jade Risser …. Jade
Valerie Baber …. Charlotte


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Author: James Mudge

James is a Scottish writer based in London. He is one of BeyondHollywood.com’s oldest tenured movie reviewer, specializing in all forms of cinema from the Asian continent, as well as the angst-strewn world of independent cinema and the plasma-filled caverns of the horror genre. James can be reached at jamesmudge (at) btinternet.com, preferably with offers of free drinks.