Tuesday 13 October 2020

Nocturne (Movie Review)

Blumhouse and Amazon Studios continue to offer up some Halloween-inspired frights with their latest release, Nocturne. This is the second one of the films under their Welcome to the Blumhouse banner that I'll be reviewing, following my review of Black Box last week. And much like that movie, this one also seems to be content with living in the shadows of its much-better forebears, while still managing to tell a somewhat intriguing story that isn't without some glaring problems.

The film centers upon the twin sisters, Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) and Vivian (Madison Iseman). Both girls are students in a prestigious art school, having been groomed to play the piano since early childhood. Vivian appears to be the more successful of the two, exuding a level of skill and confidence that her sister seems incapable of. But after the most talented student in school commits suicide, the school decides to open up its much-coveted position of concerto soloist.

This sparks a rivalry between the two sisters, with Juliet seeing it as the perfect opportunity to finally prove that she is capable of surpassing her sister. Except things take a turn for the otherworldly after Juliet discovers the notebook once owned by their dead classmate, with detailed instructions on how to play one of the most complicated arrangements, along with what looks like a pagan ritual. Now she must decide just how far she is willing to go to get what she wants.

I definitely got Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince vibes while watching Nocturne. But even more than that, the movie owes a lot to the likes of the brilliant Black Swan. And there is nothing wrong with a movie that borrows heavily from works that came before, provided it is ready to do enough to distinguish itself from those prior works. Which is kinda where Nocturne starts to falter in my opinion.

My biggest problem with Nocturne is that it just wasn't all that scary to begin with. I didn't feel the same overriding sense of dread I felt in Black Swan, nor did it have the sense of wonder and mystery I got from Half-Blood Prince. At several points during the movie, I had to actively remind myself that this had been billed as a supernatural horror film. But what we got instead was closer to psychological horror. This is not to say that nothing supernatural happens during the movie. It was just that whenever it did, it was too underwhelming to have any kind of impact or leave any lasting impression.

This wasn't exactly helped by its wholly-unconvincing special effects. There were a few VFX shots sprinkled throughout the movie that threatened to pull me out of any sense of immersion I had felt leading up to those scenes. I guess I have to consider that these movies are being made under the television division of Blumhouse, and as such shouldn't be held up to the same standards as their theatrical releases. That knowledge didn't make seeing them any less jarring though.

Overall, the movie was just okay and a bit of a disappointment considering it never fully committed to its supernatural horror premise. For anyone looking for a solid psychological horror film with an art house vibe, I'd suggest they watch the far superior Black Swan instead. But if you are intent on giving this one a shot, then at least go in with your expectations tempered.

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