Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



 Directed by Lorcan Finnegan.
Starring Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonacier. Horror, Ireland/UK/Phillipines/US, 96 minutes, certificate 15.

Released in cinemas in the UK December 9th by Vertigo Films.


Lorcan Finnegan has a real eye for supplying an uncanny, unnerving edge to the normal and mundane aspects of modern life. With 2019’s VIVARIUM he turned the task of house buying into a nightmarish, surreal and claustrophobic purgatory from which there was no escape. Re-uniting with his regular collaborating screenwriter Garret Shanley, he turns his lens towards the issues of fast fashion and illness, combining another two aspects of everyday life into a smart and effective film that manages to get under the viewer’s skin.


Eva Green plays Christine, a fashion designer getting ready to launch her latest line of children’s clothing. Just as the line is about to launch Christine receives a troubling phone call and then immediately has a surreal encounter with a severely diseased looking dog. Months later, Christine is still suffering from the effects of a mysterious illness which has left her housebound, relying on a respirator to help her through the night and bouts of memory loss. Supported by her patient husband Felix and struggling with her young daughter Roberta, Christine is surprised by the arrival of Diana, a woman from the Philippines who claims that Christine hired her to help her out around the house. Using home grown remedies Diana helps Christine on the road to recovery but suspicions are soon raised to Diana’s true motives as unnatural signs and events start to occur around Christine.


NOCEBO works well on several levels. As a scathing commentary of capitalism, particularly the callous behaviour of the fashion industry in regard to the sweat shops used to cut costs at every level and the long lasting and near crippling effects of long-term illness. Although the causes of Christine’s illness are kept mysteriously unnamed it is hard not to draw comparisons to the seemingly ever-present spectre of the recent pandemic as more and more people suffering from the physically debilitating effects of long COVID are becoming more and more visible in everyday life. He also manages to effectively highlight the massive differences in location and lifestyle between a Western fashion designer and her employees located around the globe sewing her garments together in punishing conditions for the sake of a deadline for a shopping centre fashion show.


Never coming across as overly polemical it still makes its points effectively. It also fits in with the current vogue for folk horror with its enticing Philippines folklore that has been brought into Christine’s life. Chai Fonacier’s effective portrayal of Diana also impresses, keeping her true motives hidden and stringing the audience along to a grimly satisfying conclusion. Finnegan yet again proves himself as a director specialising in the weird and uncanny; single shots lingering in the memory for a long time after viewing the film with short effective shots of children standing unnaturally waiting to perform for a fashion show or a dog emerging menacingly from behind a curtain being a couple of examples to be found here.


At times it may feel overstretched, but it still gets its points across in a satisfying and sometimes unnerving manner. Possibly the most anti-capitalist horror film of the year it takes aim at its target and nails it just enough to cover for its slightly undercooked dramatic shortcomings.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans