By Last Caress.
Pieces, the brand-new short-form horror from burgeoning Yorkshire production company Cappuccino Studios, is a fourteen-minute exercise in tension, eschewing the “gore” route but choosing instead to twist at our nerves, tuning them like guitar strings.
Isabella (Kristy Guest) has just attended the funeral of her grandmother, Theresa (played in flashback by Kate Sandison), and in lieu of her parents who have already made good their departure, she’s going to spend the night at her Nonna’s house, boxing everything away. As she goes about her task Isabella disturbs a pile of old books, one of which catches her eye; a journal, filled with strange drawings, symbols, sketches, runes. Did Nonna create this tome? There’s a jigsaw puzzle piece taped to one page, alongside a bold message: FINISH IT. Odd. Never mind. Isabella packs the book away with the others and cracks on.
Later that night, Isabella is pretty much finished her packing, and settles down to stay there for the night. There’s a creaking noise coming from the attic. Investigating, Isabella finds a rocking chair up there, which may well have been set in motion by a draught and subsequently caused the floorboards to creak. Okay then. There’s something else up there, piquing Isabella’s curiosity: a small tin box, in isolation on a table. On its clasp dangles a padlock. An open padlock. Well, you’ve just got to have a look, haven’t you? Isabella does indeed, and what she finds is a jigsaw puzzle. Taking it downstairs, she deduces after connecting just a couple of pieces that it’s a puzzle depicting a beloved photo of Theresa, her Nonna, taken by Isabella herself at her own fifth birthday party. Swept up by the reminiscence, Isabella resolves to complete the jigsaw. And hey, wasn’t there a puzzle piece inside that weird book too, with an instruction to “FINISH IT”? Maybe that’s one of the pieces of this puzzle! Shall we find out?
Should we find out?
Yorkshireman Dan Sunley, the writer and debutant director of Pieces, is an avid fan of the swell of J-Horror and K-Horror movies which arrived in the late nineties/early noughties, and this admiration is evident throughout the picture. As with so many of the finer examples of Asian horror cinema, Pieces is concerned with mining its frights from the everyday, the mundane. Whilst all houses are kind-of spooky in the dead of night, this is not a creepy Gothic mansion, it’s a run-of-the-mill suburban estate property; the deceased Nonna, Theresa, was not a wart-ridden hag with a pointy hat and a bubbling cauldron. She was just a woman. And whilst not everything is absolutely spelled out – as things almost never are in short horrors, and neither should they be – the wider story of what has transpired here is elegantly addressed with the inclusion of that rather creepy book, Nonna’s own self-written Necronomicon. Yup, Theresa and her life may have looked plenty mundane, but Nonna had clearly gotten herself deep into something badly… wrong.
Featuring a strong, sympathetic turn by Kristy Guest in the central role as Isabella upon whom this movie stands or falls, Pieces is an assured, clearly defined debut by Mr. Sunley, and comes recommended. I’d love to see him writing the UK’s own version of Ju-On: The Curse somewhere down the line.
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