Content warning: This film includes multiple depictions of suicide.
Nocturne is about a prestigious performing arts high school at which a pair of fraternal twins attend. Juliet, the ambitious, but more anxious of the two is having trouble getting noticed. Her sister, Vivian, has the friends, the boyfriend, the spot at Juilliard, and because of the top student Moira's, suicide, a spotlight performance at the senior showcase. Yet, when Juliet discovers Moira's notebook and plays the song within, things begin to go her way. Lots of happy accidents occur, but they start to mirror the strange drawings in the notebook and make Juliet suspicious about what the missing sixth drawing is supposed to be. The film stars Sydney Sweeney, Madison Iseman, Jacques Colimon, JoNell Kennedy, Rodney To, John Rothman, Ivan Shaw, Brandon Keener, and Julie Benz. The film is written and directed by Zu Quirke. The film is streaming as part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse series, exclusively on Amazon Prime.
This is what I was expecting from all of the films in this series. I was expecting a spine tinglingly scary psychological trip. And what a trip it is, especially with the strange and uncomfortable opening scene. I appreciate when a director doesn't go for the sensationalism of a suicide. Director Zu Quirke gives us the appropriate visual language and then moves on. What's intriguing is how many things are seeded in that opening scene that come back later.
Zu Quirke gives an excellent blueprint for the mystery of Nocturne. She has the exquisite method of foreshadowing in the production design, coordinated masterfully by Cecil Gentry and set decorator Corey Stram. Quirke's storytelling requires the right mood and everything in these spaces conveys an incredible emotion. She's an excellent spatial storyteller.
Not only that, but the scenes are built with an eye toward the internal workings of Juliet. Quirke and cinematographer Carmen Cabana have created some visually striking and arresting photography. There's this incredible slow motion scene as a dance troupe does their routine and the camera pushes in. It goes beyond them to show Vivian and boyfriend, Max, talking and laughing, but the camera doesn't stop there. It pushes beyond them and shows Juliet, alone, unable to see the performance, but only watching the body language of Max and Vivian. The film is full of dynamic and gorgeous compositions like that one.
I found the sibling relationship a little hard to believe, though. Most of the twins I know have a closer, more instinctual bond with one another. That's not to say they can't have a healthy sibling rivalry as depicted here, but I think the story over all would have made more sense if there were like ten months between their ages where there could have been a rivalry that could get nasty.
I also may be a little more bummed because the film didn't engage in any twinsploitation with the occult nature of the horror. I like supernatural elements, they're the most frightening for me and it would have been even more so if the sisters had some kind of psychic link. In someways I like that the entity, spirit, or demon is never officially named or taking a physical form. I like that someone could try and explain it all away just to undermine the character's confidence that what they're experiencing is real and with a closer connection between the sisters it wouldn't have worked out as well.
I love Sydney Sweeney's performance. She has one of those innocent, kind of cherubic faces and to watch her be able to switch back and forth between the innocent and the sinful is excellent. She does a great duality with the times at which she's possessed by the need to be the best. I loved watching her slip deeper and deeper into madness and craving. She is one to keep on the look out for.
I really liked Nocturne a lot. There are no jump scares, but definite arm chair gripping creepiness that will make you want to inch away from the tube. The film has an excellent balance of high school drama with supernatural horror. I recommend you check it out and I look forward to what Zu Quirke has up her sleeve in the future.