Genre : Horror-Thriller
Rating : Unrated
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Will Rogers once said that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and that’s no truer than in the entertainment business. Your first film can either make or break your career due to a plethora of reasons, especially when your debut film premiere at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. And yet that’s exactly where director Nicolas Pesce found himself. With his debut film The Eyes of my Mother premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Despite the pressure, and some polarizing reviews, Pesce became one of the hottest up-and-coming directors in horror. Now, just a few years later, he returns with one of the first horror movies of the year, Piercing.
Reed (Christopher Abbott) seems like any other mild-mannered family man. Despite having a beautiful wife and child he has something inside of him compelling him to kill. No longer able to resist the urge he tells his wife that he is going away on a “business trip” but instead checks into a hotel. With a plan in mind he calls an escort service for his first victim, Jackie (Mia Wasikowska). Unfortunately for Reed he is shocked to learn that Jackie isn’t quite the victim he was hoping for. But as shocking as Jackie’s true intentions are perhaps the more shocking part is the film itself.
Based on the novel by Ryû Murakami, Piercing is nothing like The Eyes of my Mother‘s arthouse influence. Abandoning that motif completely director Nicolas Pesce goes in the complete opposite direction by taking inspiration from the Italian giallo. Showing an incredible versatility Pesce is able to replicate the colorful yet grimy aesthetic perfectly with blood splatter brightly spread across the screen. All of which is punctuated by a score made up exclusively of the scores from Italian horror classics. As good as Nicolas Pesce is at replicating the style it also falls into the genre’s pitfalls.
As great as the film looks and sounds it can feel a bit hollow at points. Although the film has a great premise it tends to drag, particularly in the second act and lacking any of the emotional weight of his debut feature. Even worse plot threads such as Reed’s past are glossed over despite being visually interesting. The only thing keeping things going are the performances from our two leads.
Despite the film’s pitch-black subject matter Piercing maintains a darkly comedic tone which can be attributed to actor Christopher Abbott as Reed. More Patrick Star than Patrick Bateman he has an ineptitude to him that makes Reed strangely likable. Abbott does a magnificent job straddling the line between bumbling criminal and being a true threat. Perhaps the only person less stable than Reed is Mia Wasikowska’s Jackie.
Best known for her roles in Alice in Wonderland and Crimson Peak she plays against type as Jackie. Trading in the white and blue Alice dress for black lace she displays a sexuality we rarely see from Wasikowska. Coming off as merely peculiar at first, she seems like the perfect victim. But as the movie goes along, we see her true nature in one of the first true shockers of the year.
Ignoring the sophomore slump director Nicolas Pesce puts in a solid effort with Piercing. The film looks absolutely amazing. Bold colors bleed through the screen as we take this twisted journey. Unfortunately, in a classic case of style over substance it feels like Piercing had so much more to say. But for those looking for a gory, psychosexual piece of horror to start their year there are few better places to start than Piercing.
Links : IMDB
Piercing is now in theaters and on VOD