Screamfest LA 2015: Naciye, by Alexander Miller
As much as I love horror films, I find myself at odds with the genre due to the varying clichés and tropes that steer many otherwise good films to the level of pulpy genre fare. While this preface may not sound like the most positive endorsement, Emru Cicek’s feature debut Naciye (which he also wrote) is directed with confidence and style that suggests we might see great things in his future as a director. Despite his best intentions Naciye isn’t the breakout debut feature I was rooting for. While the film had some flickering moments of brilliance, they were truncated by misguided forays into thematically alienating territory, underdeveloped characters, and a few too many loose ends.
Clocking in at under 80 minutes, (something I find refreshing when 130 minutes is a common running time) Cicek packs into Naciye a seemingly simple story about a young couple who seek respite by renting a secluded, seaside home. It just so happens that their rental is occupied by its former owner, the titular character, a deranged woman who has a tendency to murder anyone who might pose as a threat to the rental property that was her childhood home. The main cast is limited to the three leads. The couple is Bengi (Esin Harvey) and Bertan (Gorkem Mortsez) but the show stealer is Derya Albora, whose punchy performance turns what could have been a two-dimensional slasher into a genuinely creepy sociopath. The film favors practical effects over digital which feels like a godsend for someone who yearns for gooey red blood squibs opposed to video game stylized gore effects that are so common in (not restricted to but frequent in) B-horror movies. Seeing Derya Albora go full tilt homicidal proves she is capable as a formidable hellion. Naciye is scary because of Albora’s vigorous performance as if the home were deified, and she deemed herself a holy guardian to her kingdom. However with the convoluted resolution, any interpretation of the character’s motives would be irrefutable.
The score for the film is notable and effective. It feels as if it is winking at Anton Karas’ famous zither score for The Third Man with easy, flowing, soft rhythms that complement the dark material free of irony or self-conscious parody.
Albora plays Naciye as a bourgeoisie sociopath, the kind of serial killer that would be more concerned with her victim’s blood staining the couch than disposing of the body or evading authorities. While I enjoyed some of the directors decisive craftsmanship, I discovered that influential cues weren’t working to the films benefit and while I was hoping that this debut feature would fall into the same class as other debut films like Shallow Grave or Blood Simple. However as the film progressed any positive momentum that had accumulated was lost.
This mishandling of material comes to an apex by the finale when an abruptly displaced (and overlong) flashback shook my attention like it was yanked by the scruff of the neck into a lengthy and unpleasant expose of Naciye’s life. Not only is the flashback sequence senselessly out of place, it moves at the wriggle of a worm but it drags us through some sadistic moments. The dissociating factor is the cumbersome placement paired with an air of unpleasantness that feels like some moralizing of the antagonist is a necessity.
The overall result is a sporadically compelling thriller that suffers from a few fatal flaws that go far enough to keep me from saying that Naciye is an efficient film. It will satiate some appetites, even provide a few scares but the overall effectiveness was lost on me due to the clumsily realized final product. I would like to make concessions in light of some genres having some inescapable restraints but Cicek wriggled away from them with some creative tendencies that I find laudable. However, his tendencies toward repellent subject matter is off putting and at times felt contentious to the degree where I felt a level of hostility from the film. With film, the “more is better” school of thought isn’t always the best way to go and Naciye suffers from that.