Cinematic Releases: Nocturne (2016) - Reviewed

Check out our early review of Nocturne. 

A group of teens get together to party who fool around with an Ouija board when they’re not doing the same with each other and of course all hell breaks loose.  Sound familiar?  That’s probably because this beyond tired trope of modern horror has been completely beaten into the ground with little to nothing fresh brought to the table.  2016 has already given viewers a bellyful of demonic possession horror flicks, including but not limited to The Conjuring 2, The Other Side of the Door, The Witch and even Satanic.  Like the zombie subgenre of horror, demonic possession horror has taken a nosedive over the past forty years from William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Exorcist to Kickstarter financed dreck like husband and wife directing team Kristi and Steve Shimek’s Nocturne.  

Echoing a far more effective dinner-with-friends horror thriller found in The Invitation released earlier this year, right down to the truth-or-dare gameplay, the characterizations, the muted visual schema and the tipping point in which bodies start to fall, Nocturne really isn’t anything you haven’t already seen a thousand times before.  A good example of how to set your devil movie apart from the pack would be something like The Taking of Deborah Logan, The Witch or best of all The Wailing, offering a unique setting, rich characters and an inspired take on the now oversaturated market.  Nocturne, on the other hand, is the kind of movie you make with the hopes of fitting in with the rest of the pack however disengaged and indifferent it leaves the viewer. 

While not reaching the unintentional camp of The Devil Inside or the forthcoming Incarnate, Nocturne (not to be confused with several other movies with the same name) might be the most soporific devil movie since The Exorcism of Emily Rose.  With the usual clichés of horny teens wanting to get drunk, take hard drugs and have sex but not without tossing in some Ouija board tomfoolery, I was already done with these characters before the demons got ahold of them.  The ultimate cliché of teen horror is that these overprivileged young jerks will inevitably pay for their sexploits and underhanded double crossings with their lives by way of whatever course the supernatural horrors take them on.  Occasionally Nocturne sports some modest gore effects interspersed with sub-par but passable CGI and the tone deaf cinematography looks clean for the most part.  Performances are fine for the straight-to-video cast but there’s nothing Earth shattering here, not to mention the “possessed” girl doesn’t have much more to do to indicate she’s not herself beyond walking around half naked with her head tilted slightly.  I know, I know, it’s an ultra-low budget student affair from the same people who ripped off of Children of the Corn with The Maze and offered up just last year their own shoestring take on Your Highness with Dudes and Dragons, but there’s gotta be some range for a demon to possess a human soul outside of making them go streaking.

Do I look tired to you?
I hate to be hard on what is essentially the work of two straight-to-video directors trying to get their feet wet in a dog-eat-dog film industry, but I really can’t in good faith recommend Nocturne.  Certainly not to horror fans who are likely to be bored out of their skulls no matter how hard it tries to be somewhat scary.  Casual filmgoers will likely lose interest before it really begins and considering how many genuinely stagnant movies I’ve sat through that just so happen to contain one or two really great scenes in them, it grieves me to say nothing of the sort ever came here.  Incidentally the most interesting use of the dreaded and mythologized Ouija board in film appeared briefly in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which treats the board like a Cannabis fueled aside while simultaneously leading the central character towards the biggest discovery of his life up to that point.  While it may or may not be one of many red herrings that cross the protagonist of that film, it used the framing device for all of these frankly generic and forgettable horror offerings in recent years in a way that hadn’t been seen before.  

The makers of Nocturne and anyone else in the industry thinking of pursuing the Ouija board demon horror flick anytime in the near future should take note of why Anderson’s use of the board was inspired rather than tired.


- Andrew Kotwicki

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