Oct 19th: Nocturne (2020) ☆☆1/2

Another one that I didn’t totally hate, but, just like the main character, it had so much wasted potential!

This movie, while beautiful, seemed a bit lacking in a few respects: the actual horror factor, the use of the foreshadowy notebook, and any kind of point. I ended up wondering why I even watched it when it taught me nothing, showed me nothing, didn’t inspire me, and didn’t even scare me.

Another Welcome to Blumhouse entry, this Prime Video special was directed by Zu Quirke and features some really beautiful piano playing, at least.

***SPOILERS INCOMING***

Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbtttttthhhhh. K. Nocturne delves into the tumultuous relationship of high school seniors and twins, Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) and Vivian (Madison Iseman), who aren’t related but look enough like twins because they are both lovely, young, blonde, white girls, like half of all movies that have ever been created! It’s not hard to find girls like that in acting, I’m sure, so casting non-twin look-alikes couldn’t have been too hard (the show Teenage Bounty Hunters did it too, even though one of those twins was brunette.)

Lack of diverse leads aside, the relationship between the sisters is fraught. they both go to a fancy music boarding school and play piano, but Juliet deals with severe anxiety, and regularly takes a medication that I don’t know if it was ever named. So, now we’ve got mental illness in the mix, too. Yay for typical horror!

Juliet looooves piano, apparently, and Vivian just sort of does it for fun, but when Vivian gets into Juliard and Juliet does not, everything starts to fall apart for the two of them. Of course, poor, sick, dedicated Juliet (who yells at her piano teacher that she’ll be a “statistical anomaly” when she turns eighteen soon, since most teenagers lose their virginity by seventeen; that whole scene was so forced and cringey) has nothing else but music in her life, while Vivian has Juliard, and a boyfriend, and the best piano tutor, and confidence, I guess.

But the underlying horror of this sad family is the events surrounding suicide of fellow student Moira (Ji Eun Hwang) that leaves an empty spot for the coveted senior recital. Juliet and Vivian both decide to go for the spot, naturally, and Juliet finds a notebook with strange drawings and backwards words and the last page torn out–and Moira’s name in the cover.

I had a lot of hope when this happened. the drawings are neat, nearly like medieval illuminations, and I was ready for some ghostly hauntings. That didn’t happen so much.

In the end, Juliet creates her own downfall in using the notebook to try and best Vivian. The pictures in the book are barely brought up until the end, and each one, while it depicts something that happens on Juliet’s path through the movie, aren’t very cool or mind-bending. There’s one point where, after Juliet tries to kiss her new tutor Henry (Ivan Shaw), her old tutor having been fired for slapping her, because she knew that Henry used to sleep with his other student, Vivian. Angry, Juliet throws his super cool piano trophy into his fireplace, and he yells at her to leave as he tries to get it out of the flames. That was one of the pictures in the book–a guy with a stick (the fireplace poker) and some flames, I think.

It just seemed to forced and anticlimactic when stuff like that happened. The notebook almost seems totally useless; we can see that each event involves Juliet trying to be like Vivian and failing, and that all leads up to Juliet not being able to stay on stage when she gets her chance to play at the recital due to Vivian’s broken arm. All the notebook does is totally spoil the final little bit of the film.

When Juliet walks off stage, she runs up to the roof (what schools have easy roof access in the US?) and walks to the edge, teetering in her flowing white dress–an image that she was inspired to draw in the notebook the night before.

But then it shows her looking at her hands on the piano, and the audience claps and cheers. She’s done it; she’s played the piece, and she’s happy. But then the scene changes to her bloody face, upside down and smiling, and we know that she has stepped off the roof.

My biggest question: why did no one hear/see her fall?! Juliet lands on a statue on campus, and people are literally walking by; someone was sitting just a few feet away; nobody notices. Sure, this could be a commentary on how she is never seen, not even in death, but only could achieve her goals in her imagination. But it was weird and totally took me out of the movie, not one of those moments where I could just suspend my disbelief.

And, for someone who deals with anxiety and stage fright and imposter syndrome, this movie didn’t make me feel very good. All I got from it is that hard work won’t help; medication won’t help; and being petty with your mean sister means you deserve nothing that you’ve ever wanted. Who wants to watch a movie like that, especially one that wasn’t even scary?

I was real disappointed in this. If the story line were different, I could have enjoyed the visuals and music more, but I was left feeling uneasy and unentertained.

I wish the ghost of Juliet the best, though. And Sweeney did a great job with soggy material, at least.

Abigail

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