Two Sundances ago, Nicolas Pesce arrived on the horror scene with The Eyes of My Mother. I’d like to take full credit for discovering him by recognizing his film in the Next section. Now he’s back in the proper Midnight section with Piercing, a deliciously fucked up two handset between a killer and a woman who won’t get killed so easily.
Reed (Christopher Abbott) tells his wife (Laia Costa) he’s going on a business trip. We know he’s planning to murder a woman. He orders an escort, but Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) is more than he was prepared for, and he was prepared a lot. We even see him rehearsing his transition lines and timing the chloroform.
Piercing is really the age-old story of boy meets girl, boy prepares a murder room for girls, girl turns out to be a cutter and self-mutilates before he can do the deed, boy and girl engage in a manipulative battle of wits movie. You know, the usual.
The film is really between Wasikowska and Abbott. Any reasonable killer would cut his losses after the hospital but Reed sticks with it. I guess you get what you pay for, or some dudes gotta finish what they started. He didn’t really get started though. She beat him to it.
So Reed spends the rest of the night with Jackie sort of warming her up to still be his victim. The way Jackie plays it, you can’t really tell if she is committing suicide by John or she’s messing with him. Tables turn, ones are upped, and it keeps moving for a brisk 81 minutes.
Piercing is as psychological as it is gory, but it’s both. Jackie’s cuts and subsequent injuries fill the gore quotient. Reed has some flashbacks too exploring what probably made him this way.
I never read the Ryu Murakami book it’s based on but Piercing announces its weirdness pretty early. Reed hears voices coming from his baby and other unlikely speakers later in the film. His wife’s reaction once the night goes south is not what you’d expect either.
I sort of felt like Piercing was just getting started around the 80 minute mark. I guess leaving you wanting more is a good thing, and I don’t know if that’s just where the book ended too. I could definitely extend this night into the next day with Jackie and Reed, but for a fleeting one night stand it’s memorable.