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“The nocebo effect is the opposite of the placebo effect. It describes a situation where a negative outcome occurs due to a belief that the intervention will cause harm.” That’s one definition of the title of this film which you probably weren’t dying to know, but hey, who said movie reviews can’t be educational?
However, with Christmas hot on the heels of the World Cup, this is supposed to be the most unique and joyous December we’ve ever known. So let’s forget the science and focus on the flick in hand because there’s much to celebrate.
Christine (Eva Green) is a fashion designer who seemingly has it all: a successful career, a loving family and an enviable home in a typical leafy London suburb. She shares this with her Marketing Strategist husband (yes, apparently that’s a real job title) Felix (Mark Strong), and their daughter Roberta (Billy Gadsdon). But just around the corner is a rather scary-looking dog, followed by a mysterious Philippino girl, Diana (Chai Fonacier). Both ensure all will not be so rosy for much longer.
When a horror movie – or at least one that leans towards the genre – tries to be more than one thing, it can sometimes backfire. This is especially true of horror comedies, and whilst Nocebo certainly doesn’t try and tackle such risky territory, the mix of psychological and occult prove to be perfect bedfellows more so than usual. What’s this down to? A lot of it can be attributed to a simple combination of an original storyline, minimalist cinematography and a subtle soundtrack. Less is more is sooooo clichéd, but it’s entirely justified to mention here thanks to sterling work by director Lorcan Finnegan.
Speaking of direction, the pace of the film never really lets up from the off, and when it dies down for a short period early doors, we only feel a little let down because we’ve clearly been spoiled during the opening exchanges. As Nocebo lasts a little over 90 minutes there’s a lot to pack in, which probably explains the need for speed. We never really see the fragility of the human mental state manifest itself outside the comfort of the family home, which a longer running time would have allowed. This prevents the filmmaking from being even more courageous, which would surely have taken it to the next level.
But that may well be down to budget constraints and is a mild criticism in any event. As already mentioned, there’s a lot to like. You can take your pick of the underlying themes and B-stories; a myriad of issues from the power of the mind to the Western World’s penchant for exploitation in the name of capitalism. There’s twists aplenty, along with some quirky special effects that are not too outlandish that they’re just downright weird, as well being vital to the whole thing. Everything is so intricately woven and plays with your mind so deftly, that you’re never sure at times who you should be rooting for – which goes for all four main characters.
Nocebo is the perfect antedote at this time of year if the conveyor belt of Channel 5 Christmas movies isn’t really your thing. It goes on general release in the UK on December 9th 2022.