Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pieces of Talent (2014) and a Missing Piece

Pieces of Talent (2014)

‘Pieces of Talent’ is an independently produced and distributed feature by Shutter Blade Media that has earned a bevy of awards from its film festival screenings and has garnered both critical and fan acclaim across the board since its release last year. It is directed, shot, edited and scored by the multi-talented octopus armed filmmaker Joe Stauffer who co-wrote the screenplay with fellow North Carolina native David Long (credited as Dustin Lewis as co-writer) the co-developer of its concept and is its star playing a character of the same name in a meta role. It takes the old serial killer snuff film premise and does something uniquely different with it. It is a tried and tested formula but it is the extra solution added to it that uniquely separates this from its peers in the sub-genre - some of which are great such as Last House on Dead End Street (1977) and more often than not are terrible such as ‘Snuff’ (1976).

Aspiring young actress Charlotte (Kristi Ray) cannot catch a break in her chosen career path and hates her life. She is stuck living with her useless drunken bitter resentful mother Mary (Barbara Weetman) who tries to hold her back and she works as a cocktail waitress in a seedy local strip club to help support the both of them. Outside this dive one night taking a cigarette break, fate intervenes when she sees the club’s bouncer using excessive force with wannabe filmmaker Long who was getting a shot of the building with his camera. With related interests, a friendship is quickly formed leading to a close bond. Charlotte becomes David's muse and he promises her a starring part in his new project that he thinks she will be perfect in and she excitedly accepts little realizing what horror she has let herself in for.

The story does not go in the direction you think it will go and carries a sub-text with a satirical commentary - a damning criticism on the pressures of the movie industry and the desperation of the artists trying to break into it. The only real humour here though comes from struggling filmmaker the insane and mysterious David Long himself - a portrayal of a worryingly relatable everyman anti-hero with his long ginger hair and obnoxious constant shit eating grin and dudespeak who is impossible not to like despite his horrific acts. Long is an unlikely truly one off highly memorable screen psychopath who has the potential to become iconic. On an abandoned farm in which he has made his home, he brutally tortures and murders various members of the local filmmaking community that in part contributes to a terrifying tale of revenge. He commits these gruesome crimes while filming in his sick twisted obsession for his art seen in the grainy POV of his camera; these are powerful depictions of gory violence with a sleazy mean spirited punch to the gut executed with fantastic special make-up effects.

The subject matter itself is treated with nothing but serious realism as we sympathize with the miserable plight of our protagonist the also struggling actress Charlotte played with complete conviction by Ray. This is an onscreen relationship that you will become fully immersed in really feeling these characters with two exceptionally strong core performances delivering effortlessly authentic sounding naturalistic dialogue. Weetman also deserves credit for her commanding presence portraying convincingly a hopeless loathsome mother who makes you want to spit at the screen at her. The rest of the cast are all around fine too. The faultless direction and sublime editing of Stauffer and his and Long’s script has the story unravel at a pitch perfect pace and evokes a mixture of different emotions from you - horrified, sadness and warmth. It never forgets for one second though that this is pure horror, which is built up through the story with a creepy and unsettling feeling throughout. The duo has built a world of believability here with the two lead characters and their surroundings. This is essentially an extremely bleak and grim affair but has real heart and soul with a powerful emotive lending rarely seen in modern horror cinema in general let alone independent horror.

The production values are astonishing for this kind of ultra-low budget with a technically superior effort to the majority of its ilk. It is a beautifully shot film with amazing camera compositions filmed entirely on location in North Carolina – there is something interesting to look at in every frame. There are also nightmarish and surrealistic dream sequences – the disturbing imagery here is reminiscent of the visual style of NBC’s groundbreaking series ‘Hannibal’ with director Joe Stauffer demonstrating a startling wonderful flare for filmic art. The score is scrumptious ranging from country style music that perfectly complements the emotional elements of happiness and melancholia to surreal sounds that heightens the atmosphere in the scenes of terror.

On this rare occasion, it is safe to actually believe the hype as ‘Pieces of Talent’ is not just a great indie horror but is easily just one of the best horror movies released last year. A helluva lot of enthusiasm, passion and talent are evident here with all involved going in with the want of making a superior addition to the genre rather than for financial gain and they succeeded in just that with a mesmerizing genius inventive vision fully realized. A high concept is achieved on such a low budget with an intelligently crafted piece of arthouse horror. As the film’s tagline reads this is indeed “Beautiful Horror”.

**** out of ****

You can purchase ‘Pieces of Talent' on DVD loaded with extras or/and on VOD plus other merchandise from the store at the official website.

A Missing Piece

It does not end there. Joe Stauffer will return in the director’s chair along with the rest of the creative team behind ‘Pieces of Talent’ for its sequel ‘A Missing Piece’. The film will further explore the terrifying world of David Long in which he creates his macabre art set two years after the bodies are discovered on the abandoned farm. An investigative journalist wants to learn more about the unknown killer visiting this scene of the crime where he uncovers previously unknown details and finds himself even closer to the truth than he could imagine. David Long and Kristi Ray will reprise their roles along with Jeremy Blackford playing the journalist.

Watch the teaser trailer...

Dave J. Wilson

©2015 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.


  1. Where can I find the sequel A Missing Piece?

    1. Unfortunately, the sequel hasn't been made yet.