Nicolas Pesce, 2018, USA
Nicolas Pesce’s follow up to ‘The Eyes of my Mother’ is another oddball affair and likely to prove unequivocally divisive. But if it’s one thing that seems clear just from these two features is that Pesce is following his own agenda and doesn’t mind being an acquired taste. His explorations into horror are the ingrowing kind, thoroughly opposed to the mainstream.
“Can we eat first?”
‘Piercing’ begins with a striking montage of building miniatures. Like the Onetti brothers’ ‘Abrakadabra’, its aesthetic is clearly a homage to the ‘70s giallo, another growing genre trend after the wealth of ‘80s reverences. This means it also reuses music from ‘The Red Queen Kills Seven Times’ and ‘Tenebrae’: I guess that maybe we can thank Quentin Tarantino for making reusing the soundtracks from other films a trend – sometimes incongruously.*
And then it becomes instantly queasy arthouse horror with a twitchy man hovering over a toddler with a knife. He doesn’t do it, but the urge is strong, so he rents a hotel room with the intention of murdering a prostitute. Like performance art, he mimes the murder for practise. But then Mia Wasikowska turns up at the door and… things don’t go as planned.
Christopher Abbot seems about to deliver a consummate performance of the meek-seeming killer, but Wasikowska then introduces something more playful and equally dangerous. If not dangerous, then unpredictable. The actors relish turning the tables on one-another within Naomi Munro’s sumptuous, slightly unreal art design. And all the time, the tone of Seventies giallo frames it all, the bold colours, the simultaneous perversion and flippancy.
Based on Ryū Murakami’s novel, ‘Piercing’ plays with assumptions until the audience is in the submissive role of wondering just who’s in charge. Rarely has S&M been played so openly and brazenly with the viewer as Pesce artfully removes one block after another from underneath until we are left as uncertain as can be. This is sly, adult material and very stylish. Steve Abrams is frustrated by 'Piercing' and that's as it should be, surely. Of course, the ending will be the decider in dividing opinion, but it is completely in keeping with the S&M agenda and leaves the audience teetering on the edge of satisfaction.
• Yes, I am aware that Cattet and Forzani’s ‘Amer’ utilises the music of other films but that feels more in the service of giallo mash-up that ‘Amer’ is and not in the service of their vinyl collection.