If you caught Nicolas Pesce’s dark and disturbing debut feature The Eyes of My Mother (2016), you’ll already know this exceptionally talented young writer-director is prone to venturing where other filmmakers fear to tread.
Pesce’s sophomore feature, Piercing, is every bit as accomplished albeit not as grim, despite being adapted from a novel by the author of Audition, Ryu Murakami. And while it never matches the shock value of that unforgettable J-Horror (what does?), Piercing does feature a number of nasty surprises guaranteed to have fans of twisted cinema squirming in their seats.
New father Reed (played by Jon Snow lookalike Christopher Abbott) is a man with murder on his mind – and an ice pick in his hand. Determined to scratch this homicidal itch, he departs on a “business trip” – the business being the calculated murder of a prostitute whom he has arranged to visit his hotel.
When the girl he booked proves unavailable, substitute Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) arrives with an aberrant agenda of her own, and before you can say Hard Candy, the stage is set for an unpredictable and blood-soaked two-hander where S&M power-play resembles Cronenbergian body horror.
The rather troubling subject matter is offset by a pitch black sense of humour (Reed preps by miming the murder, complete with grisly foley work) and wonderfully committed performances from the leads.
Wasikowska, the Jennifer Jason Leigh of her generation, continues to impress in both her choice of offbeat roles and ability to inhabit troubled characters, while Abbott brings the brooding awkwardness of his role in TV’s The Sinner to the would-be killer, whose escalating bewilderment reflects that of the audience.
Piercing‘s other major strength is its off-kilter production design, which falls somewhere between ’40s noir and Sin City, creating a sense that the film could well be set in a different reality altogether.
Pesce has proven once again he’s one of the most innovative and interesting new filmmakers working in the genre, and horror and cult movie fans will find plenty to love in Piercing, including a terrific soundtrack that borrows from the Italian giallo movie catalogue.
In cinemas: January 10, 2019
Starring: Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska
Directed by: Nicolas Pesce
Piercing opens in limited release from January 10, thanks to Monster Fest Presents in association with Rialto Distribution. A Special Event Screening at Sydney’s Dendy Cinemas Newtown will include a Q&A with star Mia Wasikowska. Check here for other participating cinemas and session times.