Wednesday, 17 December 2014


The lists of the critics' choices for horror movie of the year are coming thick and fast now. Along with The Babadook, Starry Eyes, Housebound and Late Phases (none of which I've actually seen, embarrassingly) I've noticed another omnipresent title: Pieces of Talent.
With a tiny budget and very little in the way of recognisable names attached, I found myself intrigued as to how it could compete with the other big hitters.
After a quick Facebook conversation with the filmmakers, I was made aware of the fact that this highly acclaimed film is available to watch FREE on its official site. MIND BLOWN.
Needless to say I wasted very little time before sitting down to take a look at it.
Would Pieces of Talent take a place on The House's best of 2014 list? Read on...


Dir: Joe Stauffer
Starring: Kristi Ray, David Long, Taylor Kowalski, Barbara Weetman, Jon Stafford, Nate Panning, Shaun O'Rourke, Joy Merrow

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

Feeling a lot like a mumblecore indie romantic comedy in places, Pieces of Talent follows aspiring actress Charlotte (Ray) as she looks to escape her dead-end life, working as a waitress in a rundown strip club and sharing a home with her hard-drinking mother (Weetman).
One day she witnessed a man taking a harsh beating from a bouncer outside her place of work and steps in. After she gets him away from the angry doorman, the man introduces himself as David Long (played by, um, David Long).
Long is a hippy filmmaker, looking to create a true piece of art and together the pair of them think they may have found the perfect partner for their aspirations.
The problem is David is a serial killer, recording each murder in an effort to create his true masterpiece — and Charlotte is the muse he has been looking for.

BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
More than anything, Pieces of Talent is an intelligent film. A genre defying twisted romance and witty deconstruction of the creative process in Hollywood, with art house sensibilities, this film is proof that there are intellectual, creative artists working in our beloved genre. When next you face a sneering naysayer who decries horror as 'large breasted teens making stupid decisions and getting slaughtered by masked maniacs in unconvincing gouts of gore', show them this film.
The intelligence carries over into the writing, the film never contradicts itself or stretches credulity — it progresses naturally towards points that make sense, a sturdy, assured plot path driven by well-realised characters and dressed in the fancy aesthetics of indie cinema.
Throughout the film we are shown Long's short films, each a wonderful piece of visual poetry in its own right but sensibly providing further comment on the actions on screen, offering us clues to what lies ahead and further insight into our characters, particularly the twisted David himself.
Long is a revelation in the role. Like  the twisted love child of Harry Knowles, Bill Bailey, The Big Lebowski's Dude and Elijah Wood's Frank in Maniac. He veers from likeable, goofy stoner to sadistic psychopath with disconcerting ease. He is a unique and terrifying movie monster, one whose fanatical vision to create real, pure art would be applauded if it didn't involve the brutal decapitation of his collaborators.
Of equal note is the wonderful Kristi Ray as Charlotte. It is impossible to not fall for her, a sweet and naive girl who so desperately seeks to escape the hand she has been dealt. Cute and kind, it is easy to understand how Long could find himself drawn to her and even easier to fear for her well-being as he gets nearer and nearer.
It isn't just the work of those in front of the camera that hits the spot — Stauffer's direction deserves serious credit. Some shots are breathtakingly beautiful, even when at times the film sinks to some very ugly places. As a hilarious jab at the more morally bankrupt sectors of the film making business (particularly with Kowalski's preening diva actor and Stafford's arrogant, obnoxious producer, the film is the blackest of comedies) but the blossoming relationship between Long and Kristi really carries the film and the mouth-watering camerawork in their scenes together really is a joy to behold.
Finally, the murder scenes. Both grittily realistic and visceral, yet at times grimly humorous, like the character of Long they are a schizophrenic monster that will leave you unsteady and on edge — which is exactly how it should be. Bravo, Mr Strauffer!

WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
It seems almost churlish to look for flaws in a film such as this one, but that is what I am here for. However, do let me stress that these faults are very minor and will most likely come down to personal taste.
With that in mind, let's start with the first and most obvious — the unique and artistic feel of this film will be offputting to some. If you want to put your brain in neutral and sit down with some splatter, come back to Pieces of Talent when you're prepared to give it some proper thought. It isn't a beer and pizza film (please don't take this as an attack on those films, I love them as much as the next man!), it is one that deserves peace, quiet and your undivided attention. Some may find this a bit much, in which case, go in peace.
Also, while the film was beautifully shot and the leads were superb, some people may find its low budget presents some barriers. It is undoubtedly a little rough around the edges at times but I found that just contributed to the film's charm, providing a striking contrast to the moments of beauty. 
Also not every member of the cast hit Long and Ray's (admittedly pretty lofty) standard. Some of the supporting players slipped occasionally, but thankfully these moments were few and far between.
Finally (and I'm loathe to discuss this) the ending. I hate to reveal this  so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, do not read on. SPOILER***** The ending features a 'To Be Continued' notice. Some people may feel a little gipped by the ending, but this is one place where I'm totally going to step up and bat for Stauffer et al. The character of Charlotte sought fame as a means to find escape from the life in which she had become trapped — Long, while fulfilling his own warped needs, gave her one without the other. In many ways this ending which at first can seem anticlimactic is THE perfect ending for the story. As such, I loved it *****SPOILERS END

VERDICT: Earlier in this review I mentioned Franck Khalfoun's Maniac and Pieces of Talent feels like a sister film to that modern day masterpiece. Both films carry a deeply disturbing darkness, a gritty and almost sordid realism, yet they are presented which such artfulness that they captivate and spellbind the viewer.
I am not overstating it when I say that Pieces of Talent is a film all fans of our genre should watch. It may be more cerebral and esoteric than most other horror films, but it is for precisely this reason that I believe it deserves to reach a wider audience.
Sumptuously filmed, fantastically acted and witty, bleak yet sweetly personal, this film is a genuine must-see. Find it, NOW, and watch it. I have something beautiful I want you to see.

Amazingly, this film is online and free to watch via the film's official website. As if that was not enough (and really bloody well is), the site also offers a cool trailer and a short but brilliant Meet David video in which we are introduced to the maniacal character of Long. Finally, the film's fabulous soundtrack is also available on the site to listen to — also for free. Schauffer and his wonderful team have done this to raise money for his proposed sequel A Missing Piece. If you do watch the film, don't be tight now. Make a donation so we can all be treated to more of this brutally lovely story. And why not visit the official Facebook page while you're at it? Give it a like and help spread the word. This really is a word that deserves spreading.

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to!
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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