NOCTURNE (2020) Reviews of Amazon Prime-Blumhouse horror

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‘The great reach their potential. The mad surpass it.’

Nocturne is a 2020 American horror feature about a timid music student who begins to outshine her more accomplished and outgoing twin sister; this is after she discovers a mysterious notebook belonging to a recently deceased classmate.

Written and directed by Zu Quirke – making her feature debut – the Blumhouse production stars Sydney Sweeney, Jacques Colimon, Ji Eun Hwang and Madison Iseman. Executive produced by Jason Blum, Lisa Bruce, Marci Wiseman, Jeremy Gold, Matthew Myers and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly.

Nocturne is part of the 2020 Welcome to the Blumhouse series of four films that are available to watch on Amazon Prime. The others are: Black Box – The Lie – Evil Eye


When a virtuoso music student commits suicide days before an important concert, her death unleashes a supernatural force. Having grown up in the shadow of her more talented twin sister, shy piano student Juliet Lowe (Sydney Sweeney) is used to always being second-best when it comes to music.

However, when she finds a mysterious notebook that belonged to the school’s recently deceased star soloist, her playing miraculously begins to improve and she soon eclipses her sister Vivian (Madison Iseman) as the academy’s top student. Along with her newfound abilities, however, comes a series of frightening premonitions. As Juliet’s visions grow more nightmarish, she discovers the true cost of achieving artistic perfection…


“It got a bit convoluted with the heavy reliance on the notebook driving Juliet to act out of character to achieve perfection. There are plenty of references to the Devil throughout the movie which feels a bit heavy handed, especially with the use of the yellow light to reinforce the abnormal events. Sweeney and Iseman put in great performances with the material they were given.” CRP Writes

“Despite its obvious themes, at 90 minutes, Nocturne is succinct enough to remain entertaining and smoothly-paced throughout. Quirke has an innate ability to keep the story moving, never pausing to mire her viewers in extraneous details, which allows her carefully-crafted, ominous mood to pervade. Though this leaves many of her characters flat, it also forces moviegoers to focus almost solely on Sweeney’s Juliet.” Cryptic Rock

“If you’re thinking along the lines of a film as unsettlingly insidious as Suspiria or as artistically eerie as Black Swan because of the similar setting and themes, you’ll find Nocturne isn’t anywhere close with its dialed down darkness. It might be billed as a creepy chiller, but Nocturne plays like someone pulled a B storyline out of a TV teen soap opera and stretched it into a film with the lightest pinch of paranormal activity possible.” Culture Crypt

” …the horror in Nocturne also comes overwhelmingly from the atmosphere more than anything else. There are touches of violence in the film, as mentioned earlier it opens with a suicide, but it is by no means a brutally violent horror movie. Opting instead to disconcert the audience by placing us in Juliet’s mind as her world begins to change, moving from one of dour blues to that of bright reds and yellows.” Cultured Vultures

“This is yet another case of a film that might have been better served as a long short film but just feels a bit padded with narrative filler just so the movie can barely cross the 90-minute runtime threshold. This slow burn of a supernatural horror empathizes with anyone whose reach exceeded their grasp.” Explore Into Film

“There are approximately ten billion scenes here where Juliet has a vision of something spooky and then faints, complete with the screen fading to black. By the time Nocturne drew to its admittedly effective conclusion I was left with the same impression that’s plagued every other ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ entry so far: this would’ve been better as an hour-long episode of a horror anthology TV series.” /Film

“It’s easy to see that the story won’t end well for Juliet, but the cinematography drops clues, bathing her in a warm yellow glow each time she gets closer to her goal, like Icarus flying too close to the sun. While Quirke’s confident directorial debut feels a little too reminiscent of Black Swan at times, the end product, with little touches like these, has enough of her own voice to feel original.” Film Companion

“While the ending of Nocturne might not be a huge surprise, the way it’s shown was a real punch to the gut. In the best of ways! And yes, this was also the case with the earlier mentioned Netflix horror movie The Perfection. However, I assure you, the ending of Nocturne is extremely memorable for very different reasons.” Heaven of Horror

“It was a visually stunning journey that had a cold and pale colour palette that I adore, with splashes of vibrant colour and warmth that amplified the more surreal and purposefully disjointed parts of the story. This was in severe contrast to the eerie and unsettling atmosphere that permeated the ordinary world. This is complemented by the breathtaking imagery, harsh cuts and long lingering shots from cinematographer Carmen Cabana.” Killer Horror Critic

“Even its finale is bungled, lingering long enough to come off as a joke instead of a shock. A better editor would have cut that final shot down and left the audience with their heart in their throat. There is a great deal of discussion about how classical music is a dying form and one character argues for its necessity… but not when it’s the driving force behind poorly recycled plots like this.” The MN Movie Man

“If Quirke’s film means to mimic the tunnel vision of its protagonist, it does so perhaps too effectively, losing its thematic potency as it travels on a predictable trajectory, involving spooky drawings and sisterly spats, all the while leaving the existential miasma sitting out of frame. With no searing images or haunting displays of psychological insight, Nocturne is a reminder that the notes themselves are just as important as how you play them.” Slant magazine

Nocturne does a successful job of building a horror film out of a natural storytelling premise, one grounded in reality. The ways that Quirke includes the school’s faculty, and Juliet’s interactions with them, Vivian’s boyfriend, and the girls’ parents, as pivotal parts of Juliet’s descent into a supernatural story. It’s a smart, small-scale thriller that puts us in the experience of Juliet, and doesn’t give her, or us, a way out of the madness that her journey leads her towards.” Sonic Cinema

Cast and characters:

Sydney Sweeney … Juliet
Jacques Colimon
Ji Eun Hwang … Moria
Madison Iseman … Vivian
Asia Jackson … Abigail
Brandon Keener … David
Bryce McKinney … Actor
John Rothman … Roger
Ivan Shaw
Stephon Fuller … Joshua
A.J. Tannen … Mike
Rodney To … Wilkins
Julie Benz … Cassie
JoNell Kennedy … Music Department Head
Phillip Wampler … Waiter

Technical details:

90 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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