Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PIECES OF TALENT (2014) movie review

Pieces of Talent (2014) d. Joe Stauffer (USA)

Charlotte (Kristi Ray) is an attractive twentysomething trapped in her small town, paying the rent by working as a waitress at the local titty bar as she dreams of a career as a film actress. Her drunken, chain-smoking mother (Barbara Weetman) living with her (not the other way around) demeans these fantasies, and given Charlotte's string of failed local independent auditions (her resume consists of “a few music videos”), it seems unlikely she will ever see her name in lights.

One night, the young would-be starlet strikes up a friendship with a bedraggled misfit photographer after he is beaten up for shooting inside the club. When he regains consciousness, David Long (played by “David Long,” a pseudonym for co-screenwriter Dustin Lewis) reveals that he is a filmmaker, and he thinks Charlotte would be perfect for his next project. We quickly learn, however, that David is a bona-fide wackjob whose idea of art has some nasty and twisted edges, the type that snag and rip and rend flesh from the bone.

The concept of a serial killer who films his bloody deeds for kicks isn’t a particularly revelatory one, dating all the way back to Michael Powell’s 1960 masterpiece, Peeping Tom. What makes Pieces of Talent worthy of note is that it is considerably more than the sum of its parts. Joe Stauffer, the movie’s director, co-writer, producer, editor, and cinematographer, utilizes an eclectic palette of stylistic choices to keep viewers off balance.

Shaky handheld passages are intertwined with elegiac tracking shots, grainy black-and-white camcorder footage juxtaposed with hypnotically beautiful fantasy sequences shot in slow-mo, mirroring the sizzling synapses of his addled antagonist. The soundtrack (to which Stauffer also contributed) is populated by dozens of songs that undulate from moody acoustic guitar to full-on drone to lonely piano tinkling.

The rough-around-the-edges performances lend an air of verisimilitude to the Nowheresville that holds our heroine in its dusty grasp, and Ray’s sunny blonde optimism makes her the perfect object of David’s (and our) affection.

Lewis, with his long unkempt locks and fixed lunatic grin, is so compellingly creepy that we may find ourselves wondering what she sees in this strange broken bird, but considering her dead-end life, it’s also understandable that she would see David’s eccentric artist as a potential ticket out. After all, he seems just crazy enough to be a genius, and who knows, maybe on some level he is.

He certainly knows his way around a welding torch, as his demented, ever-evolving metal sculptures make clear.

Stauffer’s skill and DIY sensibilities refreshingly defy the usual apologies required for an indie effort’s meager budget; the young man clearly possesses drive and a singularity of vision. Pieces of Talent may not be for all tastes, but it’s impossible to dismiss out of hand, and serves as a terrific calling card for all concerned (including practical effects man Tony Rosen, who provides us with some chilling chunks of choice charnel-house material).

The extras-laden 2-disc DVD set can be purchased directly from the filmmakers at www.piecesoftalent.com and is well worth checking out.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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