Australian vampire film A Nocturne strives to be a meditative and thoughtful yet sexy addition to the genre. Its sparse storyline is weighted with deep meaning and implication. Unfortunately, that meaning is largely hidden from the audience, and leads to at least as much frustration and tedium as entertainment.
The film mainly focuses on a vampire couple Z (Alex Spears) and X (Vanessa de Largie), which if the credits didn't identify the audience would be hard pressed to deduce. Like most of the other characters, their names are never uttered on screen. Conveniently, Z has a letter "z" tattooed on his neck, and X has sports a similar marking. They are apparently very old, and quite a bit world weary. They do little besides wander around the city, stare meaningfully into space and kill people. (During one killing session, they strip nude, but not during other killings. Hence, the sexiness.) At this last they are aided on occasion by a hirsute, philosophy spouting cannibal and a young Asian girl, identified in the credits as Seers (Patrick Boyle) and Vee (Hai Ha Lee). Vee appears to have been turned by Z and X (though she still lives with her father and brother) but Seers simply helps them out to gain convenient access to human flesh.
There isn't much to the plot, and what is there tends to be obscure because the dialogue is often hard to make out over the intrusive soundtrack music. At one point a French woman stops by the warehouse that Z and X call home to denounce them and ask that they stop killing people. She seems to be a vampire, and to have originally turned Z and X into vampires. Or maybe not. Like the half dozen or so other nameless characters in the film, she drifts in, then drifts out, without contributing much information and doing barely anything at all.
There seems to be some kind of struggle going on. Perhaps other vampires are in the city, and maybe someone hunting them. But it's hard to say for certain. The audience is constantly confused. The dialogue is minimal. The events and characters disconnected, and their motivations and actions often indecipherable. The film is inventively photographed, but this hardly makes up for the lack of dramatic tension. A Nocturne is a meandering stroll, without destination or clearly defined route. It is sometimes nice to look at. Z and X are both attractive people. The performances are respectable, at least the main players, though some of them do tend toward either understated, or over-theatrical at the other end. But viewers generally desire a clearly defined conflict, or at least a fun ride. A Nocturne provides nothing of the sort. It feels like unrelated scenes pasted together, with no unifying structure. This is at most a film to rent, and with few expectations.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and has a few issues. Aliasing is visible throughout, and the light is somewhat harsh. The action is always clearly visible.
The sound is in Dolby digital 2 channel, and is not good. The dialogue is often muffled, and crowded out by the overbearing music track. The lack of subtitles makes this particularly frustrating, as it seems that at times important story information is being relayed, and is impossible to decipher. No alternate language track is provided.
The disc does include a few extras. They are:
There are two deleted scenes, running about twenty minutes total. In the first, the French woman who denounces Z and X is given a lot more time to woodenly discourse about how wicked they are. In the second, we see Seers renounce humanity and stab himself. Neither are very interesting.
A Nocturne Trailer
The trailer clocks in at 2:24 and, like the film, makes little sense.
This section includes a number of Troma related featurettes. They are:
This features two minutes of Hypodermia, the Tromette of the week, showing her breasts and talking about Chaucer. Normal Troma craziness.
Clocking in at 14:39, this segment has Lloyd Kaufman watching part of a videotape showing Troma production assistant Doug urinating in a leather bag owned by another Troma employee, apparently at the Cannes Film Festival. Only Doug is using a prosthetic penis. But real urine. Bizarre.
This PSA features Lemmy from Motorhead telling us about how hermaphrodites are discriminated against. Also features Trey and Matt of South Park fame.
At just under a minute, this odd piece has some sort of interpretive dance about air pollution.
Trailers are included for Dark Nature, Pep Squad, The Hanging Woman, Tromeo and Juliet, Class of Nuke'em High, Combat Shock, Sergeant Kabukiman, Poultrygeist, The Toxic Avenger, The Last Horror Film, Surf Nazis Must Die, Troma's War and Terror Firmer. Before the film there is also a trailer for Troma films in general.
There is also one Easter egg. When in the extras menu, if you press the down arrow on your remote past the last of the listed extras, you will be treated to nearly four minutes of a (seemingly) drunk Lloyd Kaufman ranting about luck and conversing with a Leprechaun. Ah, Troma.
A Nocturne is inventively shot, moderately well acted and has an attractive cast. What it does not have is a coherent storyline or theme. Too many nameless, disconnected characters wander in and out with no seeming purpose. The viewer never knows what is going on, and therefore never invests in the outcome. The film cannot overcome this narrative chaos, and suffers greatly for it.