Review: PIERCING Is An Intriguing Retro Horror Film

piercing reed
Christopher Abbott as Reed in Universal Pictures Content Group’s horror film “PIERCING”. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures Content Group.

Piercing is a new horror-thriller film written and directed by Nicolas Pesce based on the novel by Ryu Murakami. The movie follows a married man with a baby who leaves his family for a “business trip” and checks into a hotel with a plan to kill a prostitute. It debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and has been touring the festival circuit to good reviews.

Although the story itself is somewhat straightforward, the film handles it in a way that is perplexing and unique. The movie refuses to pull any punches. It is unabashedly bizarre and doesn’t feel the need to explain to the audience what is happening in simpler terms. Although this might make the film less accessible to wider audiences, the end product also feels much more bold, daring, and interesting as a result.

As a whole, the movie is very dark, which is fitting given the nature of the story. That being said, there is also an element of dark humor in the script, especially in the earlier and later portions of the film. As things start to become more complicated (both for the protagonist and the audience), the way in which things are disassembling becomes more and more amusing.

piercing duo
(L-R) Christopher Abbott as Reed and Mia Wasikowska as Jackie in Universal Pictures Content Group’s horror film “PIERCING”. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures Content Group.

There is a lot of complexity in character development. You would normally expect the audience’s sympathy to fall with the to-be-victim of the crime, but the to-be-murderer is presented as the protagonist. He isn’t presented in a sympathetic light either. The movie frequently changes the perspective with which the audience is supposed to identify to an intriguing effect.

The actors do a great job in their roles. Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska, the two lead actors, carry the film effectively. Abbott gives a compelling turn as the de-facto protagonist, having that mysterious blend of charm and an unsettling personality that makes other great morally ambiguous characters, like Patrick Bateman, so effective. Wasikowska is able to bring the facade of innocence to her character, which is required for the archetype to work.

The movie contains some very disturbing imagery, although it isn’t particularly excessive or disgusting. The film aims less to shock and more to make you think about what you see happening on screen. The gore looks realistic (for the most part), and was necessary for the tone and message of the movie.

The film was also highly impressive on a technical level. The cinematography is great and has a very retro feel to it. The images have a lot of texture, and that makes it a more immersive throwback to the classics of the past which inspired this. Down to the credits, you can see the level of detail that was put into making the movie feel authentic.

Overall, Piercing was an impressive film. Although it may put some viewers off by how weird it is, it is nonetheless an enjoyable and thought-provoking thriller.

Piercing is in select theaters and on VOD beginning February 1.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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