Saturn's in Retrograde
2, Issue 10
February 1, 2000
three basic movements to the opening, and this first
part, the argument if you will, is a stunningly atmospheric
introduction. By utilizing video and what looks like 16mm film,
the piece projects a creepy documentary feel that radiates a frightening
desperation. Like Texas Chainsaws farmhouse and the
video dream sequences of the abandoned church witnessing the rebirth
of an ancient evil in John Carpenters Prince of Darkness,
what is so disturbing is that these overgrown fields and reedy streams
are so recognizable yet that the moment you recognize them they
are rendered suddenly untranslatable. Even the use of
the police adds to this unsettling feeling, the assumption being
that they can maintain order. When that trust is violated, particularly
by less than normal means, there is a deep sense of having lost
any hope of being saved by an authority that, whether we like it
or not, most people look to in the end for some kind of final reassurance
(this might account for some of X-Files popularity and certainly
speaks to Dan OBannons comic yet frightening Return
of the Living Dead where we get to see just how graphically
the cavalry can be overwhelmed).
of Nocturne, however, seem quite up to the task. The second
movement finds us introduced to the agents of Spookhouse, the government
agency dedicated to battling the darkness. The characters and their
designs recalled two comic series, Mike Mignolas truly excellent
Hellboy and Steven Seagle and Matt Wagners Sandman Mystery
Theatre, the latter reflected quite heavily in the Stranger, the
be-goggled, fedora wearing, grim faced star of these proceedings.
Now, I am not suggesting that the gang behind Nocturne even
knows about these books, much less drew inspiration from them, but
they draw from the same dark 1930s pool of murderous forces
and occult agendas, a style that has a real pulp beauty about it.
Backlit and surrounded by smoke or hit straight on by beams of light,
staring into the face of doom, they are the secret hope. The third
and final movement of the piece lets us finally see what they war
Zombies and vampires
run amuck. Intercut between shots of the Spookhouse operatives preparing
for combat, we see the dead arising, a man being chased through
the woods, a vampiric girl smirk at us over her shoulder, a bloody
corpse sprawled out before her, zombies staggering in the dark and
frantic eyes darting back and forth. One of the nicest touches is
the use of spots of concentrated light mimicking flash light beams
to pick out the rotten, tattered figures and bared fangs, as if
we are sharing the moment of horrible discovery. Again, we see this
wonderful breakdown of normal experience, a falling out between
what should and should never be able to happen.
But it is happening.
The screen being cut down to video dimensions, Nocturne has
a sweat inducing air of claustrophobia, the world crumbling inward.
Rapid cutting, for once finding a good reason to be so frantic as
opposed to just looking cool, both bleeds everything
together and, ironically, also isolates each individual shot as
a unique horror filled moment, a trap of seconds. This is a bleached
and faded world cast into sudden relief by a streak of vibrant red.
But what really stands out in Nocturne is the music. A cross
between James Horners Aliens soundtrack and Stravinskys
Rite of Spring, the score is superbly effective in underlying
the fractured, disorienting visual tone of the opening. Not having
a grasp of musical terminology to the extent that I believe the
score deserves, and feeling a bit insecure about trying to fake
my way through it, let me just say that the music is refreshingly
classical in its outlook and is exceedingly well written, a perfect
fit that demonstrates that these Nocturne fellows really care about
And what a fine piece
of work it is; Nocturnes prelude is an example of how
to bring the perfect balance of artistic merit and entertainment
to this emerging video game genre. Both electrifyingly new and aware
of the past, the piece is a gorgeous little slice of realist horror.
It may not be the three-hour epic that I pined for in the last column,
but in its own way the opening of Nocturne is indeed a masterpiece.
Joshua Vasquez is the resident film critic here at loonygames.
He also writes for the Internet film site Matinee