Depraved, disgusting, misogynistic, ugly, and interminable, Murder-Set-Pieces is the lowest form of cinematic life, a movie so utterly degenerate it makes you wish that indie filmmakers had to prove a basic standard of decency in order to buy a camera. Nothing more than a succession of fake, snuff-like executions perpetrated by a hulking Nazi serial killer, it’s too shoddily assembled to qualify as narrative and too conceptually bankrupt to count as avant-garde. The Photographer (Sven Garrett) begins with simple slashings and graduates to more exotic methods of torturing and murdering women, sawing into victims’ skulls, giving himself a blowjob with a severed head, and ultimately eviscerating little girls. The gore is an end in and of itself—director Nick Palumbo can’t be bothered with such primal sensations as surprise, suspense, and fright. (He does, however, orchestrate each bloodletting with as much glee as his fascist antihero.) Nor is the movie a Peeping Tom-style investigation into the nature of on-screen killing. It’s a pretentious exercise in divorcing emotion from shock—in showing the most upsetting imagery possible while pretending it’s no big deal. (Most disingenuously, Palumbo interpolates footage of the twin towers falling to rationalize the killing spree.) Of course, having made a movie as deliberately abrasive as Murder-Set-Pieces, Palumbo no doubt expects to be called a sadist and a pervert. Neither would be so bad—if he weren’t also a hopeless amateur.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2004