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Friday, January 29, 2016

What Lies in Wait on the Other Side of Sleep: French Fear Fest "Noct" Tries To Get Under Your Skin!

"NOCT" (2014)
Genre: Horror
Length- 15:00
Company:  Title Media

Jay (Thomas Barraud) suffers from severe sleep deprivation.  He works at a media store and attempts to live an otherwise normal life, but as sleepless nights and torturous days go by, the line between waking and dreaming blurs more and more until it's one hallucinatory stream of madness overseen by a terrifying demon (Julien Marot).

Can Jay overcome the fear that blocks his sleep, or will his mind continue twisting and turning until the demon overcomes him?

FROM ACROSS THE SEA

"Noct" is a short film coming to us from France, subtitled in English, and it won Best Short Film and Best Actor at the Festival de Cine de Terror de Molins de Rei 2015.   The film is written by Giles Daoust and directed by Vincent Toujas with help from Director of Photography Thomas Pantalacci, and this trio make one heck of an intriguing little film.

First of all, from a writing standpoint, it raises a lot of questions.  Who is Jay, exactly?  Where does his sleep block come from?  We have to figure out these answers for ourselves, somewhat ambiguously, and honestly I think the story's all the better for it.  There's a lot of isolation -- Jay is trapped in the real world, but he's not really a part of it anymore.  He's a vessel taking on water lost in a sea of dreams.

Now let's address the visuals here.  We have some really neat stuff going on here: we have some hidden cuts, particularly in the diner scene that make people appear and disappear at the drop of a hat.  We've got gore effects to die for (heh heh . . . see what I did there?) and a creature design that's just out of this world from special effects men David Scherer and Thomas Duphil.  I can't stress how much the high quality of the effects helped this picture, because a bad looking monster would have sunk the sense of unease that Toujas and Pantalacci worked so hard to build.

BRICK WALL

But then there's that ending . . . what did THAT mean?  I liked the visual aspect of it, and the shower scene was emotional and uplifting, but I don't quite follow what we're supposed to infer from this.  I can't say too much more without spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that the conclusion is beyond ambiguous, it doesn't wrap up any story threads and leaves us hanging.  Perhaps that's the intention?

I can't say for sure, but it was a bit of a disappointing cap to an otherwise really impressive short.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  None of the elements here, taken individually, were particularly original: isolated character, a monster lurking in your dreams, creepy nightmares that blur with reality.  The flavor, however, felt new and interesting.  The finale didn't pay off and held its cards too close to its chest for me, though.   Also, Jay turns out to be an awfully passive protagonist -- he doesn't really do anything throughout the film.  Things happen to him.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Toujas pulls off some neat tricks here with hidden cuts, slow camera movement and manipulating the audience's eye.  Also, the scene where Jay picks up some dropped laundry from the closet -- talk about suspense!
Editing: 3.5 / 5.  A little slow and repetitive at times during the first half of the film.  Otherwise, the coloring looks fantastic and very cinematic.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Sound is so important in any horror movie, and courtesy of Maxime Berland, what we have here is a virtual wonderland of audio as a backbone to the movie.  Love those wet slopping sounds when the going gets nasty, too!  Very spooky music from Ernst Meinrath adds to the tension of the nightmare scenes.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  There are very few lines of dialogue in the film, but Barraud delivers them like a pro.   Much enjoyed his performance during his attack -- is he horrified, or is he ENJOYING the whole thing?  You can't quite tell.  

Final Grade:   3.6 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Noct" at the official website and follow the creators on Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!