Nocturne is a supernatural horror film written and directed by Zu Quirke and stars Sydney Sweeney, Madison Iseman, Jacques Colimon and Ivan Shaw. It is part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology movie series.
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Nocturne will remind of you Black Swan and Whiplash only too well. And if there’s anything that movies based in music schools have taught us (The Perfection), it’s that music school is hell. Running on similar themes, Nocturne is a tense and gripping thriller, or more so a drama, but falters when it comes to its horror side.
Nocturne follows Juliet as she tries to make a mark in the music world. She’s a quiet and shy person, a stark contrast to her twin sister Vivian, who seemingly has everything that she doesn’t. Trouble brews when she finds a “demonic” notebook belonging to a dead schoolmate and soon her life is turned upside down.
The movie is very thrilling when it comes to its more dramatic moments. Juliet’s wish to be the best performer, her rivalry with her sister and failure to get what she wants makes for a compelling watch. The way she heart-breakingly takes herself to be second best and then eventually embarks on a horrible path to realise her dreams are taut with tension, especially her jealousy when it comes to her sister.
Vivian is someone whom Juliet sees as a threat as well as an object of jealousy. She has everything that she wants – a good boyfriend, a happening life and she’s also better at the piano. It’s great to see the love and hatred that these two feel for each other, and kinda scary to think how far Juliet would go to realise her dreams. Their characters are decently fleshed out, and you understand where all the rage is coming from.
However, this is essentially a horror movie, and unfortunately, it’s not horrifying enough. The horror tropes in the movie are rife, and there’s not enough in it to keep it going. Whatever little is there feels cliched, forced and very silly. Juliet’s hands become red due to heat after the Devil possess them and there are glowing yellow orbs that are supposed to signify something. It doesn’t scare you or make you question what’s going on but it does not fail to confuse you.
The movie also does a decent job at making us question whether it’s Juliet losing her bearings under the sheer pressure, or if there really is something supernatural going on. Had the writer decided to cut the silliness out and focused on the pressure-breaking-a-young-mind part, this would’ve been more believable. You do sometimes wonder whether it’s all in Juliet’s head or if there are more sinister works at play.
The performances are great, with Sydney Sweeney and Madison Iseman doing a wonderful job as sisters Juliet and Vivian. Sweeney plays the meek, somewhat detached and weirdly cruel Juliet well, and her body language and eyes do a lot of work since she’s otherwise very quiet. So does Iseman as the outgoing Vivian, although we’ve seen her in similar roles before. Ivan Shaw as the inappropriate teacher also adds an air of prudishness and overconfidence that you except music school teachers.
I think the notebook aspect of the movie was interesting, albeit old. I wish they’d have gone forward with the notebook and done something with it, rather than Devil hands and yellow orbs. There are some scenes of body horror that don’t quite mesh with the story and are abrupt and forced. The movie’s tropes feel like a total rundown of everything that we’ve already seen in the past, and fail to make you scared.
Summing up: Nocturne
Nocturne falters due to its predictable script and horror tropes. It would’ve benefitted from being a drama but the addition of horror to the mix ruins the experience of the movie and makes it silly. The rivalry, hopelessness and jealousy that Juliet feels and what she later does to rectify them are thrilling sometimes but are not enough to make this a must-watch overall.
Nocturne is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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