DIRECTOR: Dennis Bartok
One day while out jogging, Dana Milgrom is hit by a car as she tries to cross the road. Dana is left Paralysed after the hit-and-run. She is also unable to speak and needs an artificial voice program to help her communicate. While recovering in her hospital bed all alone, Dana starts to believe that a creepy entity by the name of Nails is trying to kill her. Is her sanity slipping or does this hospital hold a dark past?
When I first heard about and discovered Nails. I had come across the film on a list of Irish horror movies. The film starred The Descent's, Shauna Macdonald and in an odd slice of casting, Comedian Ross Noble. That was enough of a drawcard to spark some form of interest in the movie for me. Also, Ireland has gifted us with some solid genre stories over the years with Byzantium and A Dark Song. I was excited to see what the Emerald Isle would give us with this latest movie.
Depending on which poster you first see for Nails, you will either know exactly what you're in for almost immediately, or you may be under the impression that you are about to witness something far more polished than the finished product. If like me, you saw the poster that is attached to the review. You may assume that Nails could be some big-budget haunter. If you actually saw the original poster that featured a computer-generated ghost scratching the walls of a hallway. You'd know the type of film you're about to sit down and watch.
With Nails, I think that the writers had some nugget of an idea, it's just not executed very well. I think that the idea of a woman who has been paralysed due to a terrible car accident and is begins being haunted by a ghost in a run-down and understaffed hospital has some potential to be scary. Here it feels like they missed an opportunity. It feels like the story slowly descends into predictability. There is not a moment here that feels like it breaks any new ground within the supernatural sub-genre.
My first real problem with Nails is that the movie is pretty tedious. We are stuck with the main character who can't really speak, is bedridden, and for most of the running time, is trying to convince the hospital staff that a ghost is trying to kill her. It's the age-old story of no one believing her, and they all assume that her sanity is slipping. When cameras are set-up to try and capture the said ghost, no one thinks to rewind the tapes and see if she's telling the truth. So they all go on thinking that she's gone mad. It becomes frustrating after the second round of visits.
They do try and throw in one supporting character who her family believe may be the one tormenting her. The camera should be proof that this person isn't, but if only one would just watch the entire recorded footage, they would see, but no one does. It all seems a little too easy. Even when it comes to the villain Nails, we get limited screen time with the character and a backstory twist that has been done previously. The only creepy thing about this character is that we discover he collects children's fingernails and prior worked at the hospital. Other than that, we get nothing.
There is also a pretty terrible subplot that feature's Dana's husband. At first, he's this caring person. He goes and visits her almost daily after her accident. Soon the writers feel the need to introduce his training partner. They throw in a cheating subplot. The female training partner is basically moving in on a married man. Not including Dana and her naive daughter, there really isn't a likeable person in the bunch. With no one to really root for, it makes the intended third act gut-punch ending not as weighty or emotional. It feels like after all that suffering that our character goes through, it's all for nothing. It feels uneven on a tonal level.
Now we come to Nails himself. Oh boy, was he terrible looking? Maybe, I would have just preferred a ghost that was wholly make-up and practical over poorly done CGI in the wider shots. They clearly didn't have a big-budget here so they did the best that they could. I wanted him to be scary and menacing. Instead, I found that our villain was unintentionally hilarious at times. This limits all of the more suspenseful scenes and makes them almost tension-free.
Lastly, we come to the acting. This is Shauna Macdonald's show. I think it's brave for a director to put such a great actress in a leading role and have her bedridden while unable to speak for half of the movie is quite the risk. It's a good thing that Shauna Macdonald is such a great actress and conveys horror and pain with just a look. She carries this movie. Ross Noble in a supporting role as a handyman man and nurse is also likeable in his role. I enjoy seeing him do darker and more dramatic roles. The acting is one element that holds up.
DEATH TOLL: 6
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A jogger is hit by a car while crossing the road.
- A woman's breathing tube is crushed, and she almost chokes to death.
- A woman is seen covered in scratches.
- A ghost is seen with his stomach ripped open.
- Two people are killed in a car park.
- A woman is repeatedly thrown against a wall until she is dead.
- A man's spine is broken, and blood pours out of his mouth.
- A woman is seen with scabbing and scarring on her face.
- A woman's legs and stomach are slashed open.
Most of the death scenes are offscreen.
Here we have Nails. A movie that feels like a missed opportunity. It's a generic ghost-story that feels neither scary nor shocking. If you've seen any haunted-house movie in the last decade, this will likely not offer anything new to a seasoned viewer. With some decent performances, they are sadly not enough to drag this movie over the line. A predictable twist with an unneeded dark gut-punch ending doesn't help this film. For once, this may have benefitted from a happier conclusion.