Review by Sarah Murnane
Subsequent to the publication of this review, the director contacted Trinity Film Review with a document containing a directors statement about the film that should have been given to me prior to the review being published. Having read this statement, I have decided to leave the review unchanged.
Nocebo (Lorcan Finnegan, 2022) is a psychological thriller-stroke-horror film that follows a children’s fashion designer, Christine (Eva Green) who becomes plagued with a strange illness. A Filipino nanny and traditional folk healer, Diana (Chai Fonacier) comes to help Christine, and the truth of Christine’s illness is revealed.
Nocebo is an entertaining and engaging film. It ticks all the boxes of a horror film in terms of the cinematography, CGI and music. A let down for the film is the script. It is clunky and predictable in places, and overall fails to stand out from other horror film. Despite this, the primary source of horror and suspense in the film is the performances. Eva Green delivers an outstanding performance, her interpretation of the script breathes life into it despite its monotony. With Chai Fonacier alongside her, they make the perfect team. Fonacier plays the ideal villain throughout the film. Alongside this the pacing of the horror in the film is remarkably well done. Horror movies tend to suffer with bad pacing, either there is no suspense or too much. Nocebo strikes a perfect balance, the viewer feels brought along through the story as it unfolds and not shocked half-way through.
The real problem with Nocebo is the plot. I thought that horror had moved past the ‘Indian burial grounds’ and ‘Native American voodoo’, but apparently not. The source of horror in the film comes from Diana and the traditional folk medicine she performs on Christine. There is an air of mysteriousness and stereotyping about the character in order to make her scary. While the film gives Diana a proper character and backstory, it is relying on this fear of the ‘native person’ and the unknown. Judging myself as the average viewer, I do not know if the rituals Diana performs in the film are actually traditional medicines or not. Whether the film is accurate or not however, is not the point. The point is, it is a cheap story. It relies on the audience having a preconceived notion of people from other cultures. It does not sit right. The film is treading a very thin line between offense and artistic interpretation.
Nocebo is a great film in many respects, and is an enjoyable enough watch. However, the overall plot lets it down and definitely could have been handled with more thought.