Nocturne (2020) Review: Extremely Off Pitch

Just in time for Halloween, Amazon Studios and Blumhouse present their latest Prime-exclusive horror film; Nocturne. The film comes from first-time director, Zu Quirke who also wrote the screenplay. Nocturne follows the story of twin pianists who attend a boarding school that specializes in the arts. Juliet (played by rising star Sydney Sweeney) has always lived in the shadow of her more outgoing sister Vivian (Madison Iseman) who has received a great amount of praise and adulation from her peers and teachers for her musical accomplishments. This has caused underlying strife between the sisters. Following the suicide of one of their peers, Juliet finds her notebook that is riddled with strange drawings and is subsequently haunted by strange occurrences. This leads her down a dark path that sees her change acting more aggressively in order to receive more recognition for her work.

Nocturne runs at a brisk 90 minutes, but that doesn’t save it from quickly becoming dull, contrived, and derivative. The prospect of a film about jealousy between siblings is very interesting, but the film never dives deep enough into this conflict for anyone to care. We never see anything other than surface-level conflict between the two, as the film never delves into the psyche of either sibling, which makes them both come across very two-dimensional. All of the characters are thinly written with no defining characteristics to speak of. From the twins’ parents to their classmates, to their teachers, all of Nocturne’s secondary characters are completely generic and never stand out at all. Having compelling or entertaining secondary characters could have been a nice way for the film to better flesh itself out but instead, it succumbs to its own monotony and tediousness.

And then we have the film’s main protagonist, Juliet. Despite having the engaging backstory of being the lesser sibling who’s work and dedication is never appreciated, we rarely see anything other than surface-level reactions from her, and she doesn’t come off very relatable. The film never dives deep into how living in her sister’s shadow all of her life has affected her. Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney does her best with the material, but the bad writing of the film is simply too much to overcome. Throughout the film, she makes ridiculous decisions that make her come off vindictive and unlikeable. This may, or may not be the result of supernatural interference but the film doesn’t bother explaining this in any meaningful way.

Speaking of which, the horror aspects of the film completely fall flat. Despite a few mildly frightening images, Nocturne is completely devoid of any scares. None of the film’s supernatural elements are explained, which makes it come off completely convoluted. The supernatural elements in Nocturne that are actually explained are just generic horror tropes that have been copied and pasted into various horror films throughout the years. In watching the film, there is not one moment where the audience is inclined to feel uneasy, or fearful, or on the edge of their seat. Nocturne strolls along as a completely dull and forgettable horror film with almost no redeeming qualities.

Nocturne is a boring horror film that fails in almost every way, despite its intriguing premise. The cast all deliver fine performances, but they can’t make up for Nocturne’s poor writing. The film somehow manages to be dull, uninteresting, unscary, and lifeless all at the same time. I’m sure you’ll be able to find yourself a better horror movie out there to watch this Halloween.

Rating: **1/2

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