In NOCLIP, two young stoners decide to investigate their local mall in order to find ”The Backrooms”. They scour the hallways, stairways, car parks, and odd restaurants of the mall in search of unnerving liminal spaces. But will they actually find anything? Or is it just a hazy adventure?

Well, both are correct, but with a lot of subjectivity regarding the former. Not in a ”Ohh, was it all in their head?” kind of way. More of an ”I don’t think anything happened for the entire runtime” kind of way.

There are obviously caveats to any criticism of NOCLIP. It’s clearly made on a shoestring, with limited access to the setting, creating a lot of improvisation. Those are perfectly fine caveats, and I commend directors, writers, and stars Gavin Charles and Alex Conn for playing into that. On top of that, I actually think the idea of a film that explores the lesser-seen areas of a mall could be strangely fascinating, which is apparent in flashes of NOCLIP. Hell, I’m a sucker for videos that explore dilapidated and abandoned structures, a flavor that Charles and Conn try to evoke in certain areas of the mall.

The problem is that any forgiveness for shoestring budgets and debut feature rough edges do not detract from how amateurish NOCLIP comes across. The dialogue between Charles and Conn is an unlimited buffet of inane drivel peppered with sporadic excitable mentions of ”The Backrooms”. There’s little rhyme or reason to events and no tangible evidence of a progressing story. The plot is just a mess of the duo wandering about, sitting down, smoking, and occasionally having some swimmy camera effects.

Now, you can lay some of that erratic behavior at the feet of ”The Backrooms”, a massively popular and oversaturated concept in online spaces that, at this point, is basically more relevant as a gimmick to keep people pumping out Roblox maps and wonky YouTube videos than it is as any meaningful addition to the horror space. Yes, my disdain for The Backrooms as a concept certainly colored my view of NOCLIP, but it’s a perfect example of why it’s such an unenthused shrug of a horror device most of the time.

As the duo roams the backend of the mall and discovers ”mysterious” anomalies, it’s painfully apparent that it’s just two guys walking about trying doors and throwing out half-baked theories about a lunch room. There’s no sense of illusion to it. You get the feeling they quite enjoyed making this, and that’s great. I know I’d enjoy walking about a mall with my buzz on too, but watching the footage? No, that’s only interesting if you’ve got something interesting to add to it.

I persevered with NOCLIP because I really wanted to see what kind of payoff it would provide, but it left me quite annoyed at its inability to cook a payoff of any kind up. I’m really not joking when I say it’s just more walking between places, and sometimes the camera goes swimmy, and the sound gets deep and slow-mo, and then it’s back to the wandering about trying doors.

NOCLIP is a dull, aimless 61-minute trip to the mall. I do think there’s some mileage in the concept, but it needs to be planned out properly. NOCLIP feels like a movie made without structure or planning in place. Turning up and just shooting until something interesting happens rather than making that interesting thing happen. There’s magic in moviemaking on any scale, and NOCLIP is largely lacking it.

Score: 2/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 2 equates to ”Terrible”. Almost irredeemable. It is likely a waste of time for almost everyone involved.

NOCLIP screened as part of Panic Fest 2024

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