Since his feature debut in ' Without Name ', director Lorcan Finnegan has continued on with making dark, unsettling, elevated horrors. ' Vivarium ' landed at the perfect moment during the pandemic when everyone was stuck indoors and meeting the same fate as Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. With 'Nocebo', there's a similar awareness to our current lives from which it derives its horrors. Eva Green 's character is plagued with an illness that disappears as soon as she visits a doctor. She's constantly exhausted, trying to keep her work relevant as a designer while juggling a young daughter and an absent husband. All the while, there exists beneath the surface a reservoir of deep guilt over something that is teased all along but only made clear in the final act.
It's a credit to the makeup artists and the production design that Eva Green is, from scene to scene, made to look glamourous and beautiful in one and horrifically ill in the next. More than that, her physical performance matches this change. Her eyes look exhausted, but in another scene, she's upright and dancing. The source of all this is Filipino actor Chai Fonancier, who has this otherworldly calm about her that never seems to falter for a second - even when Mark Strong's character looms over her in a tense moment. Fonancier's progression through the story is fascinating, as the story dips back to her life in the Philippines before it catches up to the story's present. For a small cast and with a confined space to tell the story, Mark Strong feels like a sore thumb and an underwritten one at that.
'Nocebo' has a lot of predictability working against it. There are more than a few moments where you can piece together what's going to happen long before it actually does. That being said, the mystery is only half the fun of it. Where 'Nocebo' excels is in how it builds tension and creepiness, turning a swanky home in posh London (actually Dublin) into a house of horrors with just some clever lighting and a few camera tricks. However, when Eva Green's character begins to spiral out of control, it escalates to full-blown body horror madness with one memorable scene taking place at a commercial shoot turning into a kind of Cronenbergian rave. Yeah.
Although it falters in terms of screenplay, 'Nocebo' has more than enough style and heft to cover over the cracks. Eva Green and Chai Fonacier's on-screen dynamic, the message and themes behind 'Nocebo' as it relates to colonialism and capitalism, and the beautiful cinematography - it all weaves together to create a classy horror experience.