I absolutely love when a horror movie can make my skin crawl not out of typical scares and thrills, but out of unnerving, twisted psychological terror. Any film can use ghosts and monsters to create a fear of the unknown, but it takes more intelligent and gritty horror movies to make me fear man himself, especially when the intentions are positive. There’s nothing scarier than a man who blindly believes his own disturbing, hurtful ideals, and it’s even scarier when said man carries out those sick ideals with a smile on his face. That, in a matter of words, is Joe Stauffer’s Pieces Of Talent, a movie that will make you question the very meaning of the word “trust.”
Charlotte (Kristi Ray) is an aspiring actress struggling to find her big break, but until she does, she can look forward to a future of waitressing and living with her pushy mother. Between being harassed at work and pestered at home, salvation seems farther and farther away – until she meets David (David Long). Rescuing David from an aggressive bouncer, Charlotte finds out her new friend makes movies for a living, and she immediately forms a connection with him. David of course takes kindly to the pretty woman’s newfound friendship, and decides he’d love to work with Charlotte on his next project. Charlotte has no idea what kind of filmmaker David is though, as we find out that starring in David’s movie can really be a career killer – zing!
The brilliance found throughout Pieces Of Talent stems from the virtually unknown actor, David Long, and his portrayal of Charlotte’s obsessor. David is a charming, normal, everyday kind of guy who hypnotizes characters with his wry, emphatic smile. One glance at his tender facial expressions and it’s easy to see what makes him so believably innocent, but then his persona starts to unravel. The deeper we get into Stauffer’s film, the deeper we delve into David’s warped cranium until his true disturbing tendencies are uncovered – giving Long more and more material to work with. He’s the reason David (the character) will absolutely wear you down mentally, invading your mind with each smile, as he plays the perfect psychopath for Stauffer’s eerily sinister film.
David Long isn’t the only ace up our director’s sleeve though, as he throws us a tonal curveball for his last act or two – one that takes us completely by surprise. Just as we’re used to the more suspenseful psychological horror aspect, Stauffer switches to a more traditional, fearful horror. There are moments where we’re warmed up to the horror normalcy when David is killing his victims, scattered throughout the brewing relationship between Charlotte and David, but once Charlotte finds herself locked in a car trunk, there’s no turning back to the more hands-off horror methodology. The shift doesn’t really give us time to think, which is a good thing, and really helps to end Pieces Of Talent with a bang.
Don’t be fooled by the low-budget nature of this indie horror flick’s tamer generalization of psychological horror, either. There’s just as much gore and guts as you’ll find in most horror movies these days, as David goes a little Jigsaw at times with his trap-inspired murders. While psychological and slow-burn fans sure have plenty of mental instability to feast on, fans of gorier, in-your-face gross-outs will still have tons of goodies to enjoy themselves thanks to a continually changing atmosphere that never settles in one subgenre.
Pieces Of Talent does everything an indie horror thriller should do. Stauffer takes risks with his screenplay, tells a coherent story, jumps around different subgenre tropes, and does everything in his power to make an undeniably creepy, unnerving, and terrifying dissection of one man’s sick, twisted obsession. Of course, without David Long’s brilliant performance, that obsession would have been nothing but an after school special, but Long’s ability to lull us into a false sense of security sets us up for a serious mindfuck to come.
Pieces Of Talent lulls you into a false sense of security, but with constantly building momentum, the psychological horror never stops.