The Movie Waffler IFI Horrorthon 2018 Review - PIERCING | The Movie Waffler

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IFI Horrorthon 2018 Review - PIERCING

piercing movie review
A potential killer gets more than he bargained for from the prostitute he hires with the intention of murdering.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Christopher Abbott, Laia Costa, Maria Dizzia, Wendell Pierce

piercing movie poster


For much of the past decade, there hasn't been a stronger mark of quality in American indie filmmaking than the logo of Borderline Films. The collective has given us such gems as Sean Durkin's Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene; Josh Mond's James White; and a trio of dark character studies from Antonio Campos in Afterschool, Simon Killer and Christine. Last year a fourth filmmaker entered the fold in the form of Nicolas Pesce, whose debut The Eyes of My Mother, a stylish but shallow psycho-thriller, was the company's first misfire. Pesce's second film, Piercing, a stylish but shallow psycho-thriller, is the company's second misfire.

piercing movie review

Adapted from a novel by RyĆ« Murakami, Piercing stars Christopher Abbott as Reed, a young, affluent family man who tells his wife (Laia Costa) that he's heading off on a business trip and books himself into a hotel room where he plans to commit a murder, something he's been considering since childhood. Reed dials up an escort agency and meticulously plans his violent attack while waiting for his potential victim, young prostitute Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), to arrive.

Upon her arrival, it becomes clear that Jackie might be as unhinged as the man who has such awful plans for her. When she excuses herself to use the bathroom, Reed enters to find Jackie stabbing herself manically with a scissors. His plans rent asunder, Reed brings the woman he planned to kill to a hospital, and later finds himself in her apartment, eating her soup. What ensues is a very physically painful battle of the sexes as both parties attempt to make the other their victim.

piercing movie review

Murakami wrote the novel that Takashi Miike adapted into his notorious 1999 thriller Audition, and we're on very similar ground here with a drama of gender conflict that veers close to torture porn territory. Both Abbott and Wasikowska are very good here, and both are convincingly disturbed in their own ways, but I couldn't help think this was a story that lost something in its East to West translation. It's beautiful to look at, but it does feel like an imitation of the starkness of Japanese genre cinema, with a dash of Wes Anderson's dollhouse aesthetic in the production design. Borrowing some European atmosphere, Pesce scores his film with Italian exploitation soundtracks from the '70s and '80s, which will take you out of the drama if you're familiar with such needle drops.

piercing movie review

Essentially a two character play, Piercing sees Reed and Jackie play off each other for most of the running time, but we never really get to know either of them, and with the end credits kicking in around the 75 minute mark it feels like the plug has been pulled just at the point where you might finally find yourself becoming invested in these characters. Pesce's film ends with a punchline of sorts, which has the effect of making you feel somewhat short-changed, as though you've watched a very long short rather than a very short feature.



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