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By Heidi Martinuzzi | January 18, 2005

Usually films of this caliber violence are hack jobs or wannabe snuff films with no real message, characters, or goals other than to kill naked w****s in front of a camera. “Murder-Set-Pieces” is so much more violent and so much better than anything I’ve seen before in the genre. I cannot stress enough how shocking and unsettling “Murder-Set-Pieces” is, and how terribly moved I was, in a terrible way. Violence has been popular subject matter for indie films in the past year. Recently, theatrical shockers like High Tension and Saw have practically hit the threshold of the level of violence audiences will stomach. Indie films like “August Underground’s Mordum” have been so intent on showing bloodshed and gore that they lack any substance and, therefore, carry little credit in the festival circuit, or among other filmmakers. That’s why “Murder-Set-Pieces” is about to blow everyone’s minds. It’s incredibly good. It’s well made. It’s directed impeccably, and it’s definitely, no holds barred, the most brutal and graphic film I’ve ever seen (that includes porn and all horror films. I know I’m a girl, but that still means something).

“Murder-Set-Pieces” is so violent I actually felt like I was going to throw up a few times, and I have seen just about everything. What writer and director Nick Palumbo has done is create a set of characters so horrifically believable, but so terribly interesting, it’s nearly impossible to turn your head away. Palumbo’s story centers on the life of a serial killer, known as “The Photographer”. He hides behind a sleek and attractive exterior, but in truth is a demented and deviant monster. By giving us a tremendous insight into the character’s history and point of view, Palumbo allows us to understand that yes, he’s a monster; but as we watch the actions of this killer we become the monster, watching the game, powerless to stop the excessive violence happening before our eyes, and yet unable to tear our gaze away. Cannibalism, vampirism, rape, murder, sadism, torture…”Murder-Set-Pieces” explores the loneliness that this life carries with it, not just the glamour of death. Palumbo’s film really forces the audience to identify with the murderer on so many levels, in what is often a very uncomfortable way.

There is something “Highlander/Mad Max” about the entire film; in the way the killer drives ceaselessly on long highways through the Las Vegas skyline, the lights and sounds and people oblivious to his true nature sadistic urges. It’s all highly stylized. There is no grittiness or filth; Palumbo likes sharpness and realism. Vegas is flashy and provides just enough glamour and falseness to appropriately set this story. The entire film is extremely well put together and never drags, never seems a scene out of place, and never do we question what the filmmaker has done. Often we wonder when the violence will stop. Surely there must be some way to end the aggressive and unrelenting bloodbath…But Palumbo doesn’t let you rest. There is no explanation; no cheesy ending that puts us at ease. The cops don’t save the day, the victims don’t come back to torment their killer. This isn’t a film about heroes and villains. It’s about telling a story, and not straying from the story to appease people who may be unsettled by it.

The killer has some weird ideas about sexuality and femininity. This film is brutally violent towards women, and I had to turn away from several of the extremely graphic rape scenes. Women are dolls and w****s in the eyes of the killer.

Symbolism abounds. Terrorism, Nazism, and other references at first that may seem out of place end up making perfect sense in the grand perspective of what Palumbo is talking about. Because, you see, Palumbo didn’t just make a film about a serial killer. He made a film about violence and brutality. He shows us images that explain to us what kind of world produces monsters like his Photographer, as well as like Dahmer, Gein, Bundy, Hitler, Bathory, Vlad the Impaler, and all the rest of the psychopaths from our history and present. They are a product of our society, a product of us, and there is always a history behind their acts. “Murder-Set-Pieces” isn’t a copycat psychological thriller. It’s what The Cell should have been; an insight into a killer’s mind, not a watered-down dark fairytale. Other films people will compare it to? “Henry”, “Seven”, “Saw”, and any documentary made about the life of Ed Gein. Palumbo has managed to take the best pieces of horror, thriller, and truth and patch them together in a tirade of horrific and disturbing imagery. I think he achieved his goal.

I sincerely hope that this film, when it seeks theatrical distribution (which it deserves), doesn’t sacrifice the original vision for an R rating. As it is, there is no way in hell “Murder-Set-Pieces” can achieve anything other than NC-17, but it would be refreshing to see, for once, the director’s cut up on the big screen. This film’s entire beauty lies with the brilliantly disturbing subject matter…I hope it doesn’t have to compromise in order to cater to an audience that isn’t able to appreciate the beauty in something so ugly and heinous.

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