Joshua Licet (Anthony Falcon) wakes up one day to discover his wife (April Potter) gone and a note stating that if he ever wants to see her alive again he needs to open the box in front of him and carefully follow the instructions. The instructions detail how he must board himself up in his own house with limited food, water and electricity and complete a puzzle within the next 40 days. The mysterious stranger that is putting him through all this believes that Joshua’s life is built of lies and that he must come clean with the truth to help piece together the puzzle pieces to connect four men he does not know.
Within the first few minutes, 99 Pieces
began to feel very familiar. A mysterious figure who doesn’t think our
protagonist is living his life to the fullest decides to play a little
game with him…yes, 99 Pieces is similar to the Saw films, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like Saw, 99 Pieces
is a clever piece of cinema, but one that focuses solely on Joshua and
the depths of desperation, depression, hopelessness and fear that he
feels. Plus, 40 days stuck in your own house, trying to figure out a
pattern to the madness with hardly any food, water or light is much more
torturous than facing a quick, bloody death.
Anthony Falcon actually boarded up his own house and shot the film in
40 days, starving himself and losing 20 pounds in 17 days. He wanted to
portray the character of Joshua realistically, so he refused to eat, ran
four miles a day, didn’t shave and rarely changed clothes. This hard
worked paid off; the physically transformation of Joshua is apparent as
the film progresses. His mental state also deteriorates, which Falcon
probably experienced as well during his starvation. Falcon’s performance
is so real that at times it is hard to watch.
The film does have a
very realistic, almost naturalistic feel to it, but it with that it
does have some flaws. The camera work feels a little too shaky at times
and there are far too many zoom shots. This is a low-budget film,
though, and most of the amateur cinematography can be overlooked.
problem I found was the pacing of the film. At the 30-minute mark it
felt like an hour had passed. It is a very slow-paced film that focuses
on the downward spiral of Joshua. It’s all about him suffering through
days and days without light, much water or food and that’s what we get
to see. There is not a lot of room for action until the end of the film
when people start to come a’ knocking on the Licet’s door, wondering
what has become of them. The action starts to pick up a lot here, and
the twist ending is very surprising.
99 Pieces is
a very interesting piece of independent cinema, one that deserves to be
seen. Though gorehounds and slasher fans might not dig the slow pace of
this film, Joshua’s slow descent into madness and delirium is truly
horrifying. 99 Pieces is like a more subtle Saw for fans of low-budget and independent movies.