After a glorious year for horror movies, 2023 doesn’t seem to have started on the right foot with films like ‘M3gan’, but genre cinema is deceiving, because many of the most interesting films are released without making much noise on streaming platforms. VODas is the case with ‘Nocebo Effect’, new horror film with Eva Green that has been directed by Lorcan Finnegan, the director of the surreal suburban nightmare ‘Vivarium’.
‘Nocebo Effect’ is the first Filipino-Irish co-production and follow eva green as a successful clothing designer, with a loving husband, Felix (Mark Strong), and a beautiful daughter, Roberta (Billy Gadsdon), which make up her perfect life until at a successful show for her latest children’s clothing line, Christine spots a mangy dog whose shaking triggers a grotesque shower of ticks, one of which burrows into its skin. However, she isn’t sure if that was a hallucination or was it real, a question that she will pursue for most of the film.
Folk witchcraft and colonialist consciousness
8 months later we find her sleeping with a respirator, with a supposedly undiagnosable illness that requires her immense energy to wake up in the morning, a mysterious condition that she doesn’t know if it is psychosomatic, or a possible nocebo effect, that is, the opposite of placebo, feeling that you have side effects of a treatment without having taken it. Before the film goes the route of Todd Haynes’ ‘Safe’ (1995), Green hires a Filipino woman named Diana (Chai Fonacier) to help her around the house while she wastes away at work and the maid begins to use the folk medicine of your country.
Finnegan will not be the most popular director of recent horror films, but, like David Bruckner, he is building a solid, very rich and eclectic filmography dedicated to the genre, although with his same themes and obsessions always flying over. He is one of those types of authors whose work ends up shining as a whole and his concern for social aspects uses the genre in a way similar to works he would have written George A. Romero out of his zombie sagain the style of his ‘Stories from the afterlife’, ‘Creepshow’ or ‘The Devil’s Eyes’.
If in ‘Vivarium’ he analyzed the dehumanized spaces of suburban nuclei built to serve a machine of capital, which considers procreation itself as a way of maintaining its system, ‘Nocebo’ examines the neocolonialism of Western culture, proposing a fable of a globalized world in which countries with power now invade invisibly through the economy. Subcontracting, manufacturing in countries that are cheaper, and exploitation without consequences, something that a priori has nothing to do with the plot, but that is connected to the tradition of Stephen King’s ‘Hexe’ or ‘Drag Me to Hell‘.
Dark humor and social commentary in EC comics style
Through playing with cultural identity, Finnegan uses the folk horror, superstition, black magic and aspects of traditional medicine to play with ideas of the terror of Warren or EC comics of a lifetime, curses, crime and punishment with terrifying hallucinations but full of black humor, in a satire of the textile world designed to give conscience nightmares to Inditex and other companies that offer the possibility of having purchasing power for the middle and lower classes of Western countries based on the exploitation of other less advanced ones.
Finnegan uses a direction full of aberrational shots, turning a familiar domestic space into a strange and disconcerting place, inserting some Extraordinary dream scenes with animatronic ticks the likes of which have not been seen since ‘Ticks’ (1993). Green’s fans will not see her at her most glamorous moment, with the devastating effects of her illness brought to a fitting histrionics accentuated by Fonacier’s sinister serenity, like a Mary Poppins laden with secrets and mysteries. .
‘Nocebo Effect’ plays with the viewer’s experience in genre cinema, with subtle but hilarious gags the more obvious the plans presented by the visitor are. However, when the last Sitges was released, it was not liked very much because it was commented that it was predictable. And of course it is, as much as any good episode of ‘Tales from the Crypt’. When a work full of macabre irony, it hopes that the public will catch its sarcasm, it does not seek to be a riddlebut he is aware that what he tells establishes a complicit dialogue with the viewer, as easy to enjoy as a moral story of a lifetime.