Oh wow, that’s fascinating to hear. Because of how unconventional the story is, I hadn’t thought of it like a neo-noir movie, but that genre is definitely present. And yeah, Piercing was gorgeous. It’s hard to believe it was low-budget considering how well-crafted all the sets looked.
Now family seems to be a recurring theme in your movies. It was a big part of Eyes of My Mother, plays a part here, and you’re directing the Grudge reboot, and obviously we don’t know what you’re going to be doing with that yet, but family tragedies are a big part of that franchise’s mythology. What is it about family that makes you want to revisit it as part of the horror genre? Is family ultimately the scariest thing in a person’s life, or is it something else?
You know, part of it has to do with me being an only child and so I’m very close with my parents. I am Italian, so my family is very close in general. And I think, in terms of horror, when it comes to stakes, there’s nothing deeper than family. When you look at Piercing, for instance, it’s a very different thing if a guy wants to kill a random kid versus a guy wanting to murder his own child. In The Eyes of My Mother, someone killing someone close to you is rough, but someone killing your mother is way rougher.
And there’s something, in terms of the stakes in horror….once you bring family into it, it becomes more intense, more frightening, more engaging, and it’s one of those things where everyone has a family, no matter what their relationship is to it. And so, commenting on that, family is one of those things that is supposed to be synonymous with safety, and it isn’t always. One of the scariest things is if your family turns on you, because then you’ve got no one!
So yeah, it makes everything more dangerous.
Oh okay, that’s an acute observation, and it actually made me think back to a lot of famous horror movies like The Exorcist and Halloween, where they both revolve around family as well. You’re absolutely right that because family is closest to us; it can get to our emotional core the hardest.
I had just one last question to ask you sir. I read a lot of past interviews you did to try to avoid saying similar questions, and one thing that I noticed was constantly asked was your decision to genre blend for Piercing. It definitely does jump between camp and horror and psychological thriller. And you can even see that mixing in the pre-production and production where it’s based off of a Japanese horror novel, helmed by an Italian Giallo-influenced director, and is produced by an American studio.
When it comes to horror movies these days, lack of originality is thrown around a lot- for movies in general, but I feel horror gets the biggest flack in this regard. I’m just wondering, as an independent filmmaker who is making successful films in this day and age, do you think that genre blending is the only way for young filmmakers to create original pieces of work in contemporary cinema?
For me at least, the point of genre blending is two-fold: first, I’m such a fan of movies, like I’m a fanboy first and foremost. And so, as a filmmaker, I love being able to be like “okay, I want to take this from Dressed to Kill and this from Blue Velvet and get the kind of mixing.” Because you look at someone like David Lynch: he isn’t really making horror movies, but there’s a lot stuff from him that you can take for horror, and I think that Hitchcock similarly wasn’t making great horror movies, but he was making the precursor to them, and you can take things from him.
There’s the fan aspect of it that I like just stealing from people, but then I also think that, as a fan, I know what it’s like to sit down and make a story about a serial killer or a haunted house or a guy who wants to kill a prostitute, and go “there are 8 million versions of that movie, and it’s my job to make as unique a version of that as possible.” And for me, that becomes looking outside of the genre. I very much like Asian cinema, so whether it’s Park Chan-wook or the influence of Yasujirō Ozu on The Eyes of My Mother, it’s fun to get to reference filmmakers who aren’t in the horror genre, yet use their tricks in horror.
The thing that is so fun about filmmaking is, to make it a horror movie is like, if you have a serial killer or a ghost or a handful of other devices, it’s all of a sudden become horror, and now you can do anything and still technically call it a horror movie. You can take any film, whether it’s romantic comedy or sci-fi or drama, and there is a way to make it scary, and it’s fun to get to kind of do that.
There is a lot of Jacques Tati in Piercing; like I love Mon Uncle and Playtime. And we’re talking about a guy who made 60s French pop movies, but they have just as much an influence on Piercing as something like The Shining. So it’s fun to get to pull from all these things and make something new out of horror because people have always been doing it. You look at Carpenter, and especially the guys in the 70s, they were not pulling from the horror that came before them- they were doing something totally new; they were taking, and we’re doing it again now, but they were taking family dramas and just infusing horror into them.
I believe horror is just a very fun template that you can tell any story with. And if you make it a horror movie, it also becomes a little bit more marketable.
That’s definitely true, that last part about horror being very marketable, but I hadn’t thought of the other things that way before until you delved into it. You can take any trope and turn it into a horror flick- it doesn’t have to be owned by genre blending, it can just be filmmakers doing their own thing for the sake of creating an auteur-esque style.
And, of course, you sir are almost an auteur at this point because I had never seen a film like Piercing before, at least not in the U.S., and I hope you have a hugely influential career because we need more films that just stand apart from the crowd and take more chances and risks. So thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. I wish you the best.
Thank you so much, have a good rest of your day!
Flickering Myth would like to thank Mr. Pesce for sitting down with us. Piercing is out now in select cinemas and available on Digital HD from Vertigo Releasing.