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Home | Film Reviews | Extreme Cinema | Film Review: Murder Set Pieces (2004)

Film Review: Murder Set Pieces (2004)


Sin City makes an appropriate setting for this over-the-top slasher/sexploitation flick from writer-director Nick Palumbo. When a Las Vegas fashion photographer (Sven Garrett) develops a penchant for murder, the body count rises swiftly and steadily as the shutterbug killer manages to deceive just about everyone he encounters — everyone, that is, but an 11-year-old girl — in this film notable for its heaping helping of gore and sadism.


Written by: Nick Palumbo
Directed by: Nick Palumbo
Starring: Jade Risser, Sven Garrett, Valerie Baber, Fred Vogel, Christi Wiles, Jerami Cruise, Tony Todd, Gunnar Hansen, Ed O’ Neil and Cerina Vincent

Hell-o, Gore Maggots of the extreme and boundary pushing puss heads. This is the film in which all fans who know me personally have been waiting for. You have heard my personal review and verbal promotion for the past few years, since before the film even came out (due to the Special Effects team that was involved). Not only is this the most controversial movie of its time, this may turn up to be one of the most controversial (but not confrontational ;-) reviews of the page. Opinions seem to fly all around this little piece of anti-cinematic gold. Not only on the within the film, but in its own community… The Horror community. The proclaimed “Jaded” viewers have cringed at its sight (and the Special Effects team’s previous films have as well). It has offended the most so called “hardened” or “seasoned” fan. Other than its content, many other mall features of the film seem to cause controversy. It has gathered a cult following status and a cult following wave of controversy at the same time. I give you my review, for Murder-Set-Pieces, or as the fans would call it… “M-S-P.”

During filming of this two million dollar budgeted reel of brutality, the police were called several times for disturbance, a false weapons charge, kicked off of property in which the shooting was taking place for being a crime scene and the Director being turned almost turned in by a film processing lab for making a “Snuff Film” and child abuse. Three film processing labs refused to handle it. This was only the beginning for this film… and the Director.

Murder- Set- Pieces tells the story of a German Las Vegas Fashion Photographer known only as “The Photographer (Played by Sven Garrett).” A name for him is never revealed throughout the entire film. His girlfriend, Charlotte (Played by Playboy model, Valerie Baber) has no idea what he is doing behind her back and it is far beyond cheating. He rapes and murders prostitutes during the night in the most brutal ways. Charlotte’s younger sister, Jade (played by Jade Risser and also features her actual mother in the film), is onto him and his strange ways. She tries to look out for her older sister and warn her, but Charlotte never listens. After Jade sees that something is horrifically wrong, she does some investigating of her own and what she finds finds and endures is horrifying in itself. She must then escape the psychotic killer herself. The Photographer has flashbacks of his childhood and troubled relationship with his mother, which he screams in rage about at times (in German). He was born a Bastard. Unlike most of the teenage, big breasted bimbos in most slasher films, Jade is an innocent (but very wise) eleven year old girl. This makes the final chase scene much more sinisterly serious and extremely intense.

From beginning to end is shocking and “every scene is a scream (as claimed in the trailer).” The murders become more intense and the victims suddenly shift from prostitutes to children. The rape scenes are some of the most graphic ever filmed and the murders are quite horrific (The Special Effects were provided by Toetag Pictures and are very effective and realistic, not to mention graphically gory). A scene with a baby and her mother is quite disturbing and has caused outrage (and praise) within the Horror community. Along this sick and twisted ride, we come across “The Hitch-Hiker” from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Edwin Neal and Leatherface, himself, Gunnar Hansen. Also, Tony Todd of Candyman and Final Destination is a p*rn store clerk that is an opposite roll he is use to playing. Most of the cast (which are victims as well) consists of actual Prostitutes, Strippers and Internationally known (some Ex) P*rn Stars, such as Jasmine St. Claire and Crissy Moran (the Ex). Cabin Fever’s (the beautiful and very nice) Cerina Vincent also stars along with Fred Vogel, Jeremy Cruise, Shelby Jackson Vogel and Christy “Crusty” Wiles of Toetag Pictures. Christy also storyboarded the film as well and Jeremy did different artwork (even some pumpkin carving, Jack the Ripper style) throughout the film. The film also opens with a written quote from Jack the ripper, himself..

Since the film’s theatrical release, which turned out to be one in New York and one in Los Angeles (since then, Quinton Tarantino has revived and re-released it theatrically in California for a few showings), the film has been banned in theaters all over and every Film Festival in North America. The Director has been called a woman hater and anti-Semite(by an un-namable crusader against censorship). His family disowned him (except for his father, which got him into cinema) and his girlfriend left him. He has also received death threats. Open some eyes and turn some heads… This film surely did.

The film was released uncut on DVD by Frightflix Productions, owned by Palumbo at the time (which also released his first slasher, Nutbag…also mentioned in this film, as a “snuff…. film”). It drew worldwide attention, abuse, criticism, curiosity and chaos. Variety Magazine put the film on a cover for it’s notorious notoriety. The film was later released by Lion’s Gate in the United States (Rumor has it that their representative left half way through the screening, accepted the film and hacked away with the the tools of editing torture). It was cut by twenty two minutes, making it the most heavily cut film in cinematic history. Later, Universal Pictures released it in it’s entire, uncut form. This followed by a banning of the film in several different countries, including Norway, Iceland and The United Kingdom.

The original Frightflix copy can be found for a usually high price where available. The film has an overall number of five DVD covers (two for Frightflix, two for Lion’s Gate and one for Universal) and two different cuts available. One is an entirely different version (and movie all together) from the other. So much is cut out, that the rated R (Lion’s Gate) version barely makes any sense. Some of the Music and story were taken out as well. A total of four versions can be found of this film… You just have to look. William Lustig, Director of Maniac, is quoted to saying “There are certain rules one must follow when making a Horror film, and this film breaks them all. Nick has taken the Horror film to a place never before seen in history.” Some have called this film, Murder-Set-Pieces, the Maniac of the new millennium. If you want a slasher film that pushes the boundaries of good taste, decency and the rating boards, look no further…

This is personally the best film that I have seen in years and years. It is my number one favorite film of all time at the moment. Keep in mind, readers, this is of the UNRATED version, not the Lion’s Gate release. Some of the other controversy in the film is about the technical features of the film, such as acting and lighting. I personally think the acting is decent for what it is worth. Some say Jade cannot act, but I believe (for her age) she did as well as Heather O Rorque’s (may she rest in peace) performance in Poltergeist, which to me was no Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, but was not bad (at all) all the same. Sven was kind of dead toned, but it fit his personality as a photographing sociopath on a raping and killing spree. The director admits that it was the best performance he could pull out of some (not including any of the above mentioned). I personally think there is nothing wrong with the lighting as well. Yes, I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen much (much) worse.

The gore score is a thirteen plus. The Special Effects team, Toetag Pictures always satisfy when it comes to realistic and brutal kill scenes. This job was no different for them. They will never disappoint. There are brutally executed slashed throats, bullet wounds, stomach penetration with a knife, cut throats (aftermaths), a chainsaw induced skull splitting (as the victim continues to scream. That was awesome), a scissor stabbing, cinematic 9/11 footage (not saying that the event was a good thing, but the footage taken was up close, personal and daring cinematography) and dead children in dumpsters and public restrooms (which happens everyday. It’s ugly and repulsive… but it does happen). This (the unrated version only) is hardcore Horror and not for the easily, we’ll just say offended. There are battles on youtube now over the restroom scene. With that being said, I will say this… DO NOT WATCH THE LION’S GATE (Rated R) VERSION!!!! It has everything cut out of the film…. Everything. If there were no such thing as the uncut version, this would be the worst movie ever made to a gore fan. Every drop of blood is practically deleted from this butchered by the censor board of Lion’s Gate version. If there is one complaint I HAVEN’T heard from a single person it’s on the Special Effects of the film. Everything can be argued about this piece of controversial cinema, but one thing cannot be denied from any who has viewed… The Special Effects kick f*cking ass and are some of the most brutal to ever be caught on film.

Another aspect of controversy are the hard core rape scenes. I personally think this shock tactic has been overdone since the seventies. I also believe that if you took every scene of rape out of this film, it would still be just as disturbing. Cinematic rape is old, worn out and has been done since The Last House on the Left. Even without, this film has enough content to sicken the average viewer. That is what I admire about it so much. Yes, it does include it (and unflinchingly), but if you took it all out, M-S-P would still make the timid viewer leave the room with everything else that it includes… besides the overplayed act of rape for shock’s sake. As a fan of true Horror, you have to respect that…. and a Horror film maker that would even attempt this assault on the senses. Some love this film and some despise it and I think it has made its mark and point in the industry… Controversy. I think it deserves every ounce of controversy and absolutely deserves to be seen. Love it or hate it…. You will talk about it afterwards,. You will feed the flame and “spread the sickness (from a Toetag fan’s perspective. I am a fan of both and think they need to work together again).”

The DVD includes a few extra goodies of bloody informational chunks. There is a special introduction from Writer, Director and Producer of the feature, Nick Palumbo. There is a “gallery of outrage,” documenting the public torture the film has received. There is an audio commentary by Nick Palumbo and Sven Garrett that is moderated by Ultra Violent Magazine Editor, Art Ettinger. There are some deleted scenes and a few previews, plus more to give you a little background check on this killer of a film. The Writer took a small absence from the Horror genre because of personal reasons. He has recently resurfaced with an apocalyptic zombie fest called Corpse, which is currently in pre-production.

All in all, I’d say track down the unrated Director’s cut of this film and certainly give it a watch, if you’re the open minded and strong stomached. Draw your own conclusions. It has already broken many records and taboos and has stirred up enough controversy in Horror fans and in the community to start a small war…. and for that, among everything else… I f*cking love it. I give this film, Murder-Set-Pieces… or “M-S-P, “ FOUR BLOODY (AND SEVERED AT THE KNUCKLES) FUCKING HORNS UP.

Until the next time, this was Jay. Keep one foot in the grave, one fist in the guts and your eyes out for gore. Later… (Hate comments welcomed, but not endorsed).

Murder Set Pieces


  1. Please read.

    No, my name is not Stephanie, and no, I am not anyone via mentioned in my question(s), but I want to ask you (Dai, or others) this since you do quite a bit of coverage on the two directors… Okay, so I’ve known both director, Ron Atkins and Nick Palumbo for quite some time. And though I have not spoke with Ron since the screening of Mutilation Mile (In LA) and even longer since I spoke with Nick, I find it absolutely ironic it’s never the forefront of conversation that theses two worked together, and most importantly, Nick working on Ron’s set of “Necromaniac: Schizophreniac 2” in 2003, only to find himself casting/directing his 3rd film, MSP a year later, a film, without question looked, tasted and felt all too much like a Ron Atkins film, short of the obvious difference of budget which reflected in the two. I mean it wasn’t like the guy didn’t direct before, but it sure seems like he ran outta ideas, so what better than to take some low-end, non-paid character role on a no-budget (which wont go too far) and snag some never-ending ideas? You tell me… What director does that—unless they’re inadvertently snagging ideas? I mean seriously. Now, all artists aspire and pull from one another. I get this. But, damn, man, Polumbo straight-out ass-raped Ron of his body of work, and simply jacked it up with a bigger budget. And this is not subjective. It’s a fact. One of which is strangely never questioned by the moral majority. But you know it. I know and so does Nick and Ron.

    Now, about Ron. In many of capacity I don’t feel too bad for the guy. It’s not that this dude didn’t have some pool of talent to work with. You have Robert Scott Howard (Eyes of the Chameleon) who starred in the2012 “Red Herring,” actor, Mike Zavros (Eyes of the Chameleon) who’s went on to continue with a fantastic acting career in Hollywood, and actor, Laurence Bucher (Eyes of the Chameleon/Mutilation Mile) who is working with some people too in Hollywood on a TV series and I just got info he won a damn film festival award for supporting actor in Mutilation Mile. And last but not least you have the topic of conversation; Palumbo, who needs no introduction. So, on the other side of the coin one has to wonder, “what the f*ck, Ron? It’s not like you didn’t have some serious talent behind you, so wtf happened?”

    … So, maybe this is a two-part question:

    1) Why don’t you call out Palumbo on this bullsh*t of “biting” or to at least have the decency of acknowledging RA.

    2) Why does Ron let sh*t slip through his fingers?

    …Now, there is an interview.

  2. Cory Pelizzari

    Why isn’t this film featured on the 25 most disturbing list. I just shelled out $200 for the director’s cut dvd.


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