Nocebo – Review
A fashion designer is suffering from a mysterious illness that puzzles her doctors and frustrates her husband, until help arrives in the form of a Filipino carer, who uses traditional folk healing to reveal a horrifying truth.
Welcome back to Knockout Horror and another Horror Review. Today we are taking a look at a slow burning Psychological Horror movie – Nocebo. Starring the fantastic Eva Green. This movie represents a collaboration between Irish and Filipino production companies. Playing out as more of a thriller than a horror. I think Nocebo features enough horror elements to find a place on our site. It helps that it is, actually, an enjoyable movie. Albeit one that may not appeal to all horror fans.
Focusing on the story of Christine. A woman who is suffering from a range of inexplicable symptoms. Nocebo sees a Filipino caregiver arrive to help Christine care for her house and family. It’s interesting stuff. The constant question of whether Christine’s mysterious illness is real, or not. Makes for a fairly engaging story with a few twists and turns.
Coming from Without Name director Lorcan Finnegan. You know this is going to be a rather strange movie. While not being as highly stylised as the aforementioned psychedelic horror. Nocebo is a psychological tale based on folk legend. With a slight smattering of social commentary regarding the exploitation of the impoverished. Definitely not for everyone and glacially slow. This is a movie for those who have time to burn. Let’s take a look.
Nocebo – Ending Explained
We put out a couple of Horror Movie Ending Explained articles each week. In these articles, we take a look at certain movies and explain the ending. It’s pretty straightforward really. Many of these films may have obvious endings with a few questions left unanswered. Others will be ridiculously confusing. We approach them all the same and try to clear things up.
Nocebo’s deep plot and social commentary can be a little confusing in parts. Why not come and check out our Nocebo Ending Explained article? We go deep into some of the messages and try to clear things up. It’s a big one and full of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, check out this spoiler free review. Watch the movie and then take a look at the ending explained.
Nocebo – Irish-Filipino Psychological Horror
Nocebo follows the story of Christine, an English, upper class, kid’s fashion designer. After receiving a devastating phone call informing her of an accident. Christine encounters a mange ridden dog. The dog shakes, flicking ticks all over Christine. One of the ticks bites her on the neck. Ever since that event, she has been suffering numerous symptoms and unable to work. One day, a woman shows up to her home. She claims that Christine employed her to help care for her child and house. The woman, Diana, is from the Philippines and insists Christine must have forgotten. Christine agrees and invites her in. Over the coming weeks, the carer seeks to help Christine with her illness. But at what cost?
Despite being filmed in Dublin, Ireland. Nocebo takes place in London, England. Posh English woman Christine, played convincingly by Eva Green, seems to be struggling. Currently suffering from some serious health problems. Flashbacks hint to a time when she was a prominent fashion designer. Still living in a beautiful, large house and attempting to manage her life. Since the tick bite she has been displaying symptoms reminiscent of Lyme disease. Despite that, her husband believes the symptoms to be all in her head. A result of her own guilt for something that happened in the past.
When Diana arrives. Christine is overjoyed to actually feel some relief from her issues. Diana, initially, seems to be something of an enigma. A talented cook and, what appears to be, powerful holistic healer. We quickly learn that Diana has a dark history of her own. As you may be able to tell, this movie plays out like a drama for much of its length. We learn more about Christine’s everyday struggles. The complications they cause with family members. And the difficulties placed on the relationship with her partner. We are also offered insight into Diana’s past and why she came to London. Although fairly engaging stuff. Nocebo is slow paced and in no rush to get to the horror.
Nocebo – Filipino Folk Legend
Diana’s treatments seem bizarre. She tells a story of how she became an Ongo. A type of Filipino witch. And how she was rejected by people in her community. Christine is, naturally, rather sceptical. The lifestyle of someone from upper class London clashes starkly with that of Diana’s. A person from an impoverished Filipino island. Her treatments work, however, and begin to make Christine feel better. The question of Diana’s intentions and motivations linger throughout. Leaving Christine’s old fashioned, somewhat bigoted, partner suspicious and uncomfortable.
As mentioned above. The horror elements in Nocebo only really come in towards the end of the movie. For the most part, Finnegan is keen to keep the viewer uneasy rather than scared. Footprints in ashes and shadows in the corner of your eye are the order of the day. Much like Finnegan’s previous film, Without Name. Nocebo shares, not only, a focus on nature. But also an approach to horror. Its the things that you don’t see. The things that are hinted at, that can unsettle the most. It is, at times, effective but, also, rather lacking.
Nocebo – A Drama With Slight Horror Leanings
This feels like a drama with thriller leanings and a few mystery elements. Selfish and stingy when unravelling its secrets. Nocebo is content to keep drip feeding the viewer information. It is slow paced and at its most satisfied when dragging the viewer slowly behind. Despite this, it can be very captivating. Christine’s mystery illness presents itself in a number of different ways. As new symptoms present, her tormented existence seems all the more hellish. Eva Green’s fantastic performance sucks you into the story. She is a quirky character that can seem both likeable and horribly unlikeable in equal parts. She doesn’t feel like a two dimensional horror character. Christine has nuance and depth.
The equally brilliant Chai Fonacier is fantastic as Diana. Diana is a complicated character with a tumultuous past. The slums of the Philippines feel a million miles away from the luxury of Christine’s home. Flashbacks gradually reveal more about her past pulling you further in to the story. She is a character that is both sympathetic and powerful. Very easy to invest in. You will certainly want to know more about her. The way the legends of Filipino witches ties into the story. Along with how it ties into Diana’s background, is fascinating. Great stuff and well worth reading into when you are done with the movie. Nocebo’s story is long and arduous to get through. But it is also interesting and rather tragic.
Nocebo – Light on Scares but a True Horror Ending
Nocebo’s moments of suspense come from the dark stories of both Christine and Diana. This is not a movie that wants to scare you with visuals. Although it is guilty of some very tropey horror imagery. It attempts to build a palpable sense of tension through the characters themselves. Diana performs strange rituals in her room. She appears to have magical abilities and can transcend different plains. Christine’s initial reluctance eventually turns into full acceptance of Diana’s powers. Creating the perfect dichotomy between vulnerability and strength.
As mentioned earlier. The horror here is, most definitely, of the psychological variety. It aims to get deep inside your head and to root there. It spends tremendous amounts of time making the viewer invest in the characters. Particularly Diana and her deeply traumatic past. By the time the movie is drawing to a close. You are pretty sure of the type of film you are watching. This makes it all the more surprising when Nocebo settles in to a full blown horror conclusion. Replete with all the violence and visceral nastiness that you might expect. Its tooth gritting stuff and very effective. But is it enough to entertain the majority of horror fans?
Nocebo – Definitely Not For Everyone
The answer here would be, most certainly, no. Nocebo is an incredibly slow paced movie that is very light on scares. Even the tension is at a bare minimum for most of the movie. Though featuring horror themes. This is far more of a horror adjacent than anything else. Its dramatic and deep story takes centre stage. Only really giving way to the horror elements in the final 10 minutes or so.
This is a film that is not for everyone and that is completely fine. I can imagine plenty of viewers will find its glacial pace utterly boring. Not everyone enjoys slow burning horror movies. Plenty of people prefer fast paced action or lots of jump scares and an interesting villain. Nobody should ever feel bad for enjoying what they enjoy. Despite the way some reviewers will frame it. If you don’t like slow burning horror. Nocebo, almost certainly, won’t be for you.
Nocebo tends to suffer for some of its direction choices, as well. Close up shots focusing on items, faces and body parts feel constrictive and cheap. A tendency towards first person perspectives and point of view becomes old quickly. Reflecting a director, perhaps, lacking in innovation. Scenes showing Diana’s rituals are particularly guilty of this. Some of the practical effects and CGI are woefully bad, which doesn’t help. This is a movie that is very light on visual scares.
Other people may not enjoy the somewhat messy timeline presented here. Flashbacks to the past of both characters send the plot pinballing wildly. I felt, at times, like it was over indulging in this a little bit. Flashback scenes are typically presented in a rather clear and obvious fashion. But it can still be a little messy. Some of the flashbacks seem fairly inconsequential to the plot. There more for minor character development than anything else. It can detract from the story, somewhat. Impacting the pacing of the movie in a pretty significant way. I imagine, with this being a joint production. The Filipino side wanted to show what they could do. Understandable really.
Nocebo – A Predictable Plot and Ham-Fisted Message
The plot, here, is fairly predictable. I called it early on in the movie, as did my fiancée. It’s nothing new and the movie’s social commentary will hit you hard in the face. Focusing on the human cost of the West’s consumer obsessions. This is a message that is about as nuanced and subtle as sledgehammer to the toe. While one might hope that such a message could be conveyed with a more deft touch. It is what it is. It manages to be relevant but, somehow, also understate the level of the problem. Which is something of a disappointment, to be truthful.
It’s impossible that the viewer will be left with any hint of confusion at the end. The commentary here is loud and clear. Still, said commentary is no less pertinent and important. Especially given the attitudes of shoppers in this day and age. The involvement of a Filipino production company makes this issue all the more real. I suggest sticking around to the end of the credits. Where you can read a touching dedication from the filmmakers.
Nocebo – Fantastic Acting and Cinematography
Acting is fantastic almost entirely. Mark Strong, as Felix, felt a little out of place. It was a bit of a British soap opera performance, to be honest. I wasn’t buying Cathy Belton’s posh English accent, either. Everyone else was brilliant. Eva Green is sensational as Christine. She managed to keep her English accent up throughout. She is believable and brings so much personality to Christine. Chai Fonacier is just as good. She brings an incredibly nuanced and interesting character to life. Performing in English for most of the movie’s length. She is excellent and deserves bags of praise.
Billie Gadsdon, as Christine’s daughter Bobs, was fantastic. One of the better child performances I have seen in a horror movie in ages. She speaks clearly, has excellent comedic timing and, obviously, understood her role. She is bloody adorable in that beret as well. Anthony Falcon, as Diana’s husband Jomar, is decent in a limited role. As is Sariah Reyes-Themistocleous as Anina. She is also a ridiculously adorable kid that clearly understood her role.
Cinematography is great. While not being quite the visual spectacle that Finnegan’s Without Name is. This is a gorgeous looking movie that captures a certain 60’s British horror vibe. The 1.66:1 aspect ratio looks glorious. The framing of certain shots is very reminiscent of classic horror. Scenes filmed in the Philippines stand in stark contrast to those filmed in Dublin. It makes for a very visually interesting picture. Nocebo is a great looking film.
Is it a Knockout?
Nocebo is a slow paced psychological horror/thriller that will likely divide viewers. Definitely not for fans of of faster paced horror. This is a movie content to convey its scares in whispers and shadows. Aiming to unsettle more than anything. The deep plot and interesting characters are the driving force here. Eva Green's fantastic performance comes second only to that of Chai Fonacier.
Fantastic cinematography is deserving of praise. A commitment to portraying Filipino folk legends is fascinating. It also offers story elements that feel fresh. Nocebo's messy timeline comes at the cost of the tension and atmosphere, though. A predictable plot leaves much to be desired. A rapidly infuriating focus on first person, point of view, shots tires. The heavy handed social message feels ham-fisted at best. Though important and very relevant in this day and age. It would have been better left in the hands of someone more capable. Still, this is a movie that fans of slow burn horror may enjoy. Well worth a watch but not for everyone.
|22nd November 2022
|Horror, Drama, Thriller
|Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonacier, Billie Gadsdon, Cathy Belton, Anthony Falcon, Sariah Reyes-Themistocleous
|Brunella Cocchiglia, Emily Leo
|Philippines, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States
|English, Cebuano, Filipino
|Violence, distressing scenes, violence to animals, language