I’ve been hyped about Nicholas Pesce’s Piercing for over a year now. Since its premiere at Sundance 18’, the incremental growth of what would become one of my most anticipated films of 2019, slowly became a reality. The festival praise, the gruesome audience reactions, all participated in my eager wait. Not to mention that I stupidly missed a screening for Pesce’s latest at the Fantasia Film Festival last summer, in which this deplorable incident, lead to my excitement levels to go through the roof, as well with my pure will to withstand such urges. Finally, after over a year of anticipation, Universal Pictures, the same studio who has distributed such classics as Dr. Seuss's The Grinch and Skyscraper within the past year, released Piercing on demand, an erotic homage to Giallo horror, with ice picks and all!
I’d have to say that Piercing is ultimately a rewarding experience. It’s grueling pace, the wondrous production design, and uncomfortably hilarious tone makes for what could have been merely a by the number melodrama, in the same vein as the Fifty Shades franchise. Pesce uses miniatures, pre-existing songs (such as the theme from Deep Red, which is used to incorporate the Giallo execution into the film), and cross-cutting editing techniques to produce a wonderful homage, that remains faithful to its original roots. Even the first shot of the film is reminiscent of the 70's, with an old fashioned “Feature Presentation” title card appearing on screen, in all of its VHS-like wondrous glory.
Mia Wasikowska & Christopher Abbott in Piercing, courtesy of Universal Pictures
With Christopher Abbott at the helm, with his magnificent role, his unpredictable mannerisms and body posture makes for a great performance induced with disturbed unhinged madness, with the character who’s suffering through the commonly known problem of marital hell. A particular scene worth noting is one where Abbott’s character, Reed, mimics the very sequence of events of his planned attempted murder, where each movement in his performance is heightened to an excessive extremity. Alongside Abbott, is his female counterpart Mia Wasikowska, a performance in which she not only perfectly matches Abbott’s balls to the walls insanity, but as well sprinkles moments of pure unpredictability and body horror that will frighten and amuse cinema goers, young and old. The dynamic duo enhances the film’s whirlpool of horrific S&M and attempted murder, while also remains consistent and on-key with Pesce’s artistic vision.
Piercing, courtesy of Universal Pictures
It goes without saying, disappointingly, that Pesce’s sadistic vision comes to a halt in the film’s third act. As much as I enjoyed his pure onscreen vibrancy, the film fails to come together in a cohesive manner during the final 20 minutes, with an ending that feels too abrupt, an Halcion overdose sequence that feels too fast-paced, and a general sense of cohesiveness that’s purely lacking, due to the lost in translation adaptation from Murakami original novel. I wanted to experience more of these characters. Their arks and inner turmoils was thoroughly engaging, a feat in which most horror black comedies fail to accomplish. With a tight runtime of only 81 minutes, there could have easily been room for more material in Pesce’s script, where not only the pace could have improved, but as well the characters final redeeming moments.
Piercing is bonkers entertainment at its most absurd. It’s deliciously ghoulish and macabre, while simultaneously delving into the problematic expectations of first world relationships. It’s kinky, pseudo-erotic cinema at its most delightful, and will tickle your disturbed sensibilities within a matter of a few minutes. Pesce’s vision may be a bit undercooked during the climax, but his general approach at ambitious filmmaking will never change, for the better.