Lorcan Finnegan’s first two movies were amazing pieces of work on the level of Robert Eggers and Ari Aster. Nocebo is a vast departure from his early works and not in a good way.
Lorcan Finnegan’s last feature,Vivarium, was a mind bending statement on suburbia. Nocebo, Finnegan’s latest feature, couldn’t be more different from Vivarium or Without Name, his first film. Those movies were practically dripping in suspense and other worldly terror. People would be saying his name in the same sentence as Aster and Eggers if either movie had been produced or distributed by a company like A24. The same cannot be said of Nocebo.
A Familiar Horror Story
At once Nocebo feels like a very familiar movie. An upscale couple hires a nanny to take care of their home and young daughter, Bobs. The nanny has other plans which is apparent from the first time we meet her at the front steps of the house. The nanny, who probably wasn’t hired at all, is from the Philippines, which will play an important role later in the movie, and also happens to be a witch. Diana, the nanny, only has revenge on her mind. Sounding familiar?
It’s not hard to guess why she wants revenge by focusing all her magical attention on Christine (Eva Green). Christine designs children’s clothes. An accident of some kind, we’re not told at first but you can make an educated guess, at the factory she uses to make her clothes resulted in “bodies” being pulled from the wreckage. Accident plus mysterious nanny can only equal trouble.
Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley don’t hold anything to their chests. Everything is on display without the slightest nuance. Finnegan masks the ordinary with fantastic visuals, a passable score, and a dog who shakes a strange looking tick on to Christine’s neck. It’s not an ordinary dog and the tick is not an ordinary tick. The effects of the tick are akin to Lyme disease with the addition of going mad and acting insane. Eva Green has practically made a career out of playing crazy, oddball characters. Christine is no departure from past roles. She almost out does herself in the crazy department.
The Disease is Worse Than the Cure
We’re led to believe Diana will help cure Christine of her disease. However, the subterfuge isn’t convincing and doesn’t last long. The movie loses any momentum it may have built up the moment you realize Diana’s real intentions. This moment is either when Diana shows up on Christine’s front step or when we see an altar set up for a young girl. In one photo on the altar we can see a young girl posing with Diana. It’s easy to decipher this young girl is her daughter and she’s dead. From this point on Nocebo becomes another faceless horror movie with not too much more to say.
Sweatshops are Bad
We could argue the point of the movie is to bring awareness to the sweatshops brands like Nike, Adidas, and Gap still use to make their clothes. However, Finnegan comes off very heavy handedly. In the ultimate reveal Christine, in flashbacks, is seen touring the sweatshop. It’s here she recommends to the manager to have one entrance in and out of the factory and to keep it locked. Of course a fire breaks out resulting in the deaths of many including Diana’s daughter.
Revenge of the Sewing Machine
As outstanding as Vivarium is Nocebo is a run-of-the-mill horror movie. Unlike his previous outings Nocebo covers a lot of the same territory as other horror movies like this one. Having the catalyst of the horror be a fire in a sweatshop may be different, but by how much is up for debate, everything else is rather dull. It’s nice to see Mark Strong in a role where he’s not the villain and Eva Green’s crazy, paranoid Christine add something that would be missing if they weren’t cast in the roles but even they can’t save Nocebo from boredom. Hopefully future outings will be a return to Vivarium, Without Name, or even Foxes. It would be truly a cinema shame if Finnegan kept producing flat and bland films.