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Review: PIERCING (2018) – Ithaca Fantastik

Writer/director Nicolas Pesce made his debut in 2016 with the highly acclaimed THE EYES OF MY MOTHER. Now he’s back with PIERCING, an adaption of the novel by Ryû Murakami, who also wrote the novel AUDITION was based on. As you might expect, it’s an entirely different beast from his sombre, black and white, Lynchian debut.

We first see Reed (Christopher Abbott, POSSESSOR, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE) holding an ice pick over his infant daughter. Realizing that his violent impulses are threatening to get out of hand, he tells his wife Mona (Laia Costa) he’s going on a business trip.

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His real intention, however, is to hire and then kill a prostitute to satisfy his urges. But when the escort service sends over Jackie (Mia Wasikowska STOKER, CRIMSON PEAK) things quickly begin to unravel. She maybe even less stable than he is.

Screening as part of this year’s Ithaca Fantastik, PIERCING is a twisted, dark comedy that owes its visual and soundtrack styles, (I’m pretty sure I heard samples of Goblin’s work a couple of times), to the giallo films. The plot, with all of its deceptive appearances, twists, turns and reversals also resembles them at times. Being a fan, I was amused, others though may just be a bit confused.


I haven’t read the book, but from what I gather a lot of background material was left out or toned down for the adaptation. Most importantly, details of Reed’s abuse as a child and the murder resulting from it.

Whether intentionally or not, its omission leaves gaps in the motivations and agendas of the leads. I found that annoying, but not a dealbreaker. This is basically a two character film, knowing what makes them who they are matters. Or maybe it doesn’t. Given the use of obvious stop-motion animation in one scene and equally obvious use of miniatures in exterior shots, this could all be in Reed’s mind.

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For those wondering if, given the source material, it matches the violence of AUDITION. No, it never reaches the levels Takashi Miike, (who gets a special thanks in the credits), took that film to, but it does have some wince-inducing moments.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has picked this up for US release, and it’s worth catching. Even more so if you can catch it at a festival though.

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