Nocturne is the second film that I have watched from Prime’s Blumhouse offerings. Check out my other Blumhouse reviews, as I will be reviewing all films that are released currently and next year. Now I would say this is probably the second weakest of the Blumhouse offerings, though unlike The Lie, this falls more in horror territory, but is still lacklustre in its approach. I was waiting for the horror to start and while there were a few jump scares, nothing of note really happens.
Nocturne follows Juliet Lowe, a pianist who is constantly overshadowed by her sister. Vivian, her twin sister is flourishing both professionally and personally, which Juliet wishes she had for herself. Even putting everything into her passion as a pianist, she always falls short, being too timid to take any risks.
However, after the tragic suicide of a prodigy pianist, Juliet finds the late student’s music theory notebook, which is filled with bizarre drawings. Soon after, Juliet starts to see visions of her potential success and her promise as a pianist finally starts to get realised. But she soon learns that the book comes with a price that she may not be willing to pay. As her success grows, her relationships dwindle, often ending in self-destructive ways.
Nocturne has some good character development, though I would say I found it very hard to feel any sympathy for the main character, Juliet. She seems constantly petulant about everything and everyone. And her deep envy seems based on a sense of entitlement, as she has put in more work than anyone, therefore deserves more than anyone. Obviously, this becomes even more amplified as the book influences her.
But it’s hard to say whether the obscene confidence she has is due to the book’s negative effects, or an aspect it brings out in her that is already there. The bargain which she has struck with this book is never verbalized, so we don’t get the usual feeling of detective work that oftens features in horrors with evil objects. I haven’t seen Sydney Sweeney‘s other work, so I am not sure if this is a problem with her acting or the directing, but I found her character quite unpleasant to watch personally.
This may well have been a misstep in its approach, as though it is interesting to see Juliet’s spiral into madness, there is no real depth to it. In fact, the book could have been removed from the story, and we would instead just be watching a student who is having a mental breakdown. Though the rivalry between Juliet and her sister Vivian is compelling enough (for the most part) to push the story along, it is still missing a little something.
I would have liked more background on the book or the former owner of the book, to add some interesting depth to quite a run-of-the-mill story. Perhaps if Nocturne had focused on the lines between where her darkness lives, and where the book’s influence meet, it would have been a powerful psychological horror thriller as it was intended. The problem with Nocturne is that it started strong, seeming to have great potential but loses its footing in the second half. The ending is predictable, but unlike The Lie, in which it is presented as a twist, Nocturne’s ending is one you are anticipating. However, I found the build-up to Juliet’s final fate to be lacking.
Though there are relationships possibly forever burned, we don’t get enough escalation and impactful scenes along the way to really build the suspense. The ending tries to shock but unfortunately bores. We have all gotten used to ambiguous endings, so Nocturne had to do something interesting or different to make slogging through the second half worth it, but it’s a lot less dramatic than the filmmakers intended it to be.
Nocturne is unfortunately quite a disappointing and frankly boring thriller, that features shockingly little supernatural horror to make up for its tedious plot. Perhaps if they had chosen one theme to focus the storyline, it might have been less disjointed. But if you are a fan of more cerebral performance pieces, this type of film might be up your alley. Unfortunately for horror fans, this is not the film to get your fix from.