Directed by Lorcan Finnegan, “Nocebo” is a psychological thriller about the haunting of an unforgivable past. With an interesting build-up and an extremely predictable ending, “Nocebo” can be watched for its treatment of the genre. Christine is a fashion designer who specializes in designing children’s clothing lines. She is a popular figure, and her design journey was covered by the media. She was known for traveling the world to source manufacturers all by herself. While her life seemed to be perfect, a phone call completely changed her.
‘Nocebo’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Just as Christine was supervising a ramp walk for her clothing line, she received a call. The film chooses not to reveal to its audience what the phone call was about. But it is evident that the call completely changed Christine’s life. Right after receiving the call, she noticed a dog. The milk-eyed dog stared at her intensely; its body was covered in ticks and maggots. As it walked up to Christine, it shook off the parasites, and she could feel the ticks crawling on her body. She soon realized that she was imagining it all, but as the audience, we know that a tick entered Christine’s body through her nape. Therefore, what the rest believes to be a delusion, the audience is aware that there is more to the story and Christine’s claims cannot be entirely rubbish.
Eight months later, we witness Christine lying on the bed with oxygen support. Even after all these months, she struggled to live a normal life. Her nape continues to sport the red mark created by the tick, indicative of how the parasite might be living in her body and growing in numbers with time. She gets ready for an interview and puts on her lucky red shoes. She is no longer in an authoritative position; she is now a candidate, hoping for her designs to be selected. Christine struggles not just mentally but also physically. She suffers from nerve pain, and her hand shakes involuntarily whenever she feels nervous. She did not feel positive about the interview, and she failed to control her shivering hands. She drove back home and later received a call confirming that they were considering her designs, though they wanted her to make certain alterations. Christine was delighted when, after a long time, she finally received news that cheered her up. Just when her life seemed to be back on track, Diana knocked on her door.
Christine did not remember asking for house help, but she could no longer trust her memory. She suffered from memory loss and believed that maybe this was another instance that she completely forgot about. She allowed Diana to enter her house and offered to let her stay in the guest bedroom. Diana was a Filipino with spiritual power, and she surely had a hidden motive for entering the household. What was Diana’s motive? And how did she try to seek revenge?
Who Was Diana? How Did Diana Try To Manipulate Christine?
From the moment we are introduced to Diana, we are aware that she experiences pain the minute she thinks about her child. While both Diana and Christine were mothers, their lives were vastly different. Christine’s daughter, Bobs, was initially not fond of Diana. She had seen her leave ashes outside her room, along with the footprints of a little girl. One night she had also seen Diana fly, but her father, Felix, believed that she was just dreaming. Diana cooked meals for the family, and her culinary skills impressed them. But they did not know that she was adding secret ingredients to the food and whispering spells to get her desired result. Diana had set up an altar in her room. It had a picture of her daughter and a tiny bottle of (what seemed to be) blood, along with other suspicious mixes. It gradually became evident that she was not there to help Christine but to wreak havoc in her life.
Christine started to rely on Diana for Philippian traditional remedies to help her from the pain she experienced. She was desperate to heal and was ready to try anything to feel better. Diana at one point disclosed that she was an Umu. When she was a little girl, an old Umu came to their house. An Umu is believed to be someone with supernatural powers; they could heal a person and at the same time destroy someone if they wanted to. That night, Diana was with the Umu when she was about to die. The soul of the Umu jumped out of the body in the form of a nestling and entered Diana’s body. From then on, she had extraordinary powers; she understood the art of healing better than ever before. Her parents tried to cash in on her talent, but she was always repulsed by the idea. Diana believed that her talent was not meant to be sold. While Christine did not trust Diana’s eccentric story, she was impressed by how her techniques were indeed healing her.
Within a few days, Christine’s medicines went missing. Diana reminded her that she wanted her medicines to be removed but Christine barely remembered saying so. But she trusted Diana and believed that maybe it was just another memory loss. But Felix was suspicious of Diana; he noticed how Christine had started to completely rely on her and wondered if she was behind the removal of the medicines. One day, when Diana had gone out to drop Bobs off at school, he entered her room and found the medicines. Meanwhile, Diana developed a friendship with Bobs. Bobs was a lonely girl, with a busy father and a sick mother. She barely had friends at school, and Diana’s company made her happy. Diana proposed that they bunk school for a day and instead learn about the world. She used her power to communicate with a crow and offered to teach Bobs her tricks. She found a similarity between her and Bobs; they were both disliked by their peers because they were different, and just like her, Bobs was fascinated by the world she could not completely comprehend. After returning home, Diana was confronted by Christine. She was questioned about the medicines found in her room. She was asked to leave immediately, even though she demanded Christine to trust her. Bobs was disappointed by her parents’ decision. Just when she had made friends with Diana, she was forced to leave. But Diana promised to be with her forever if she did what she asked her to.
‘Nocebo’ Ending Explained: What Was Diana’s Motive? How Did She Seek Revenge?
Bobs later blamed her father for hiding the medicines. She convinced Christine that it was Felix who had stolen the medicines to prove Diana wrong. Felix was the only person in the house who could see how his family was being torn apart by a stranger, but he could not do anything to stop it. Christine no longer trusted him and wanted him out of her sight. Just as he was leaving the room, he remembered Diana asking him to mind the stairs. He imagined a bird flying around him, and he missed a step, slipped, and fell on his face to the ground. He was taken away in an ambulance. Bobs was successful in removing her father from the house, just like Diana had wanted her to. Meanwhile, Christine struggled with her mental and physical health, and no amount of medicine could heal her the way Diana used to. During a practice session, she suddenly started to see the people around her as demonic creatures with boils on their faces. After that episode, she mostly stayed in bed. As her life was falling apart, Diana returned, and this time she promised to reach the root cause that led to Christine’s suffering.
Diana fed Christine an ash mixture and chanted. She forced her to sit behind the sewing machine while it was finally revealed to the audience why Diana was hell bent on ruining Christine’s life. Christine had acquired manufacturers from all across the globe, and in one of her sweatshops in the Philippines worked Diana. She had fallen in love with a man at a young age, and due to the turmoil in her village, she shifted to the city slums. She was forced to take her daughter to her workplace to not risk leaving her alone at home. She remembered Christine visiting the sweatshop and demanding more labor from the workers. She even asked the manager to lock the entrance to ensure no garments were stolen.
The new rule resulted in the sweatshop becoming intolerably hot. Diana could see her daughter suffer and decided to bring coconut water for her. After requesting the manager, she was permitted to leave the premises. The manager tried to adjust the fan, and electric sparks erupted. The fire from the sparks caught on the clothes, and before one could predict it, the fire started to spread at an uncontrollable rate. With the entrance locked, the workers were stuck inside the sweatshop. They were absolutely helpless. Diana begged to enter to rescue her daughter, but she was not allowed. Her daughter closed her eyes, unable to tolerate the pain and suffering she was forced to witness. She died that day, alone and helpless. It was Christine’s greed and inconsiderate nature that led to the death of Diana’s daughter. Had she cared about the workers and their well-being, then the future would have been different.
The fire at the sweatshop is the news that changed Christine’s life. She knew that she was to blame for what had happened, but she was too scared to face the truth. Diana, using her supernatural powers, had sent the image of the tick-infested dog to Christine. She believed Christine was just like the parasites feeding on the dog’s body. She was feeding on the souls and sweat of thousands of laborers who were not provided with the basic necessities. Christine was transported to the burning sweatshop, and no matter how desperately she wanted to leave, she could not. Meanwhile, Bobs was saddened after knowing that Diana would be leaving, but she was not going to give up on her promise. She asked Bobs to look up from the garden. As Bobs stepped out onto the garden, she saw Diana jump from the top floor. Just then, Felix returned home from the hospital. He walked past Diana’s body and entered the house. He entered Christine’s room and saw that his wife was burned to a crisp. Meanwhile, the nestling stepped out of Diana’s mouth and crawled into Bob’s mouth. Diana kept her promise of being with Bobs forever. Bobs had now turned into an Umu and would often notice Diana watching her from a distance. Diana found a way to live through Bobs. She not only ended Christine’s life but also took away a normal childhood from Bobs. Perhaps the fact that Bobs lied about her father to protect her friendship with Diana made her all the more eligible to become an Umu. She had the capacity of destroying someone’s life even as a little girl. Diana was successful in seeking revenge on Christine for taking her daughter away from her. She had to pay the price of her mistake with her life and family. While people such as Christine traveled to third-world countries to find cheap labor, they often forget that the people working to make their brand global are human beings with basic necessities. By using their poverty and hunger to her advantage, Christine snatched their basic rights from them to increase production. “Nocebo” is the story of what happens when workers haunt the capitalists.
In July 2021, a similar incident occurred in a sweatshop in Bangladesh. The entrance was locked to not allow the workers to leave without permission and routine checking. When the fire broke out, the workers desperately wanted to leave but could not. Three jumped out of the sweatshop and died, while 49 others were burned to death. The bodies recovered were unrecognizable, and most workers were juveniles. Even after protests and demands, such illegal practices are commonplace. Using horror and thriller elements, “Nocebo” throws light on what happens when such parasites are forced to face the ghost of their past mistake.
“Nocebo” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Lorcan Finnegan.