‘Nocebo’: Chai Fonacier delivers star turn in int’l horror flick

EVA Green and Mark Strong in file photo

(Warning: Spoilers ahead)

Eva Green is an extremely potent actress. A stare from her or a devilish smile can convey a frightening level of malevolence without a single line uttered.

However, in Lorcan Finnegan’s 2022 film Nocebo, Green succumbs to something even more formidable.

Christine (Green) is a wife, mother, and successful fashion designer. She is in high spirits during her label’s fashion show when she receives a disturbing phone call. Then, a mangy, milky-eyed dog materializes from the dressing room and one of its ticks bites Christine.

Eight months later, the audience sees Christine waking up from a nightmare while wearing an oxygen mark. A series of unexplained illnesses has befallen the woman, with no medical relief in sight.

One day she receives an unexpected guest. Diana (Chai Fonacier) shows up at her door, claiming Christine sent for her to be the household help. Doubting her memory, Christine lets her in, despite initial resistance from husband Felix (Mark Strong) and daughter Roberta (Billie Gadsdon).

Photographs courtesy of tba studios
CHAI Fonacier as Diana.

Diana begins applying a folk remedy on Christine, and the treatment seems to be working — until things take a turn for the strange and horrific.

This is a film that relies on heavy foreshadowing. It tries to unsettle viewers the way Ari Aster did in his 2018 film Hereditary. Nocebo is a meditation on bodily autonomy and mental illness while also exploring the themes of capitalism, exploitation, guilt, and vengeance through exotic mysticism.

Green (Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows) excels in portraying restrained hysteria, but Fonacier’s enigmatic performance as the provincial housekeeper Diana is a star turn and will definitely put her on the international showbiz map.

Finnegan did excellent research on Filipino ancient folklore, reflected in the reverence and respect he gave in incorporating it into the storyline. The all-Filipino props purchased from Quiapo piques extra interest for a film that is, in the end, a good but not necessarily outstanding watch.

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