Are you in the mood for a fun bit of hospital horror featuring an ashen-faced Freddy Krueger-clone, useless side characters, a capable female lead, Irish accents, blatant Ring knock-off moments, and a random, kooky doctor who looks just like Kyle MacLachlan circa Twin Peaks: The Return? Well, have I got a movie for you. It’s called Nails, a UK/Irish co-production which played in theaters over there last summer and just arrived on Netflix here in the States. Sadly, it isn’t nearly on the same level as recent Netflix horror offerings like The Ritual and Veronica, but it’s still a very soft recommend for hardcore horror fans, especially those more forgiving of special effects which are a bit shite.

The Descent’s Shauna Macdonald plays Dana Milgrom, a track coach who is paralyzed after a hit-and-run accident. After a weeks-long coma, she wakes up in a truly sorry state: immobilized, severe scars across her face, and reliant on a ventilator machine to breath. She doesn’t yet have enough strength to talk, forced instead to communicate through a laptop app that doesn’t always work. Her older husband (she’s his second wife, a fact that does become important later on) isn’t much help and her teen daughter seems supportive, but uncertain how to behave around her. Which leaves her increasingly reliant on friendly orderly Trevor (Ross Noble).

Macdonald. I kept wanting to call her not-Toni Collette.

But once Dana encounters a menacing ghost in her room no one believes her, not even Trevor. Eventually, we learn there was once an employee at the hospital who was accused of killing five young, female patients. Before authorities could get to him he hung himself in the closet of one of the hospital rooms, the very same hospital room Dana now begrudgingly calls home.

After learning all of that, good luck looking at the closet door every night and not freaking the heck out.

The more we learn about this mysterious presence, like why he was nicknamed “Nails” when he was alive and why exactly he’s targeting Dana from beyond the grave, the less interesting he becomes. Moreover, the parade of nobody-believes-me sequences grows a bit tiresome, even if is simply playing to genre conventions. And once the scares start coming there are a couple of puzzling non-reactions from character’s facing life and death situations.

Writer-director Dennis Bartok, however, makes good use of his talented lead actress, who communicates so much through so little actual dialogue. The inherent claustrophobia of a bedbound protagonist is toyed with quite effectively. Once we’ve seen everything in Bartok’s bag of tricks, he changes up the visual DNA by working in some Rear Window/The Ring-esque moments where characters can view the monster through laptops screens and security cameras but can’t do much about it.

Dude should be just a little more concerned.

The relatively slow build-up gives way to a go-for-broke finale featuring multiple deaths, ominous Elm Street-esque shots, and a battle of wills between Dana and Nails.

You bet your ass there’s a shot of the monster walking slowly down a darkened hallway while scraping his knife-like fingers across the wall.

In the end, you get the sense they mean for this to be the start of a franchise built around Nails, in which case they have a halfway decent design for a memorable horror villain but probably need more money to make him look a little less SyFy Channel.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Predictable, painfully ordinary, but buoyed by a stellar turn from Shauna Macdonald, Nails is the type of film where part of the fun is simply noticing how entirely empty the rest of the hospital is. You imagine they rented out some soon-to-be demolished former hospital and had very little money left over. So, they did the best they could, stole from some of the greats, executed a couple of effectively claustrophobic camera moves, and continually thanked their lucky stars that they somehow got Macdonald to be their star. There are far better options on Netflix right now.

FAN CONSENSUS RIGHT NOW

RANDOM PARTING THOUGHTS

  1. The above doctor shows up so randomly and without introduction/explanation, I thought he was just another ghost. Also, total Twin Peaks: The Return vibe, amirite?

2. The opening scene depicts a male nurse clipping a comatose little girl’s fingernails. After that, those expecting fingernails to then factor into the film’s horror in any real significant way are in for a disappointment.

3. In addition to Veronica and The Ritual, other horror movies available on Netflix right now I’d recommend before Nails include The Descent, Gerald’s Game, The Invitation, The Conjuring, Hush, Under the Shadow, Creep 2, Train to Busan, The Babadook, Oculus, and even The Vault.

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

6 Comments

  1. Too bad I already watched it last night

    Reply

    1. Darn. I waited a day too long to get it to warn anyone else off. What did you think? I actually like the central performance and it’s not exactly something I regret watching. It’s just there are better options out there.

      Reply

      1. About the same. I watch a lot of terrible horror movies so this wasn’t even close to the worst of them, it even had a few decent parts, but it just wasn’t enough to work for me.

  2. I’ll have to check this out! I am obsessed with horror movies. I did really enjoyed the Ritual and Veronica. I also recommend Ravenous, which is a slightly new take on zombies. I don’t know if you’ve mentioned that movie on your blog already.

    Reply

    1. Like I argued, Nails is definitely in your more run-of-the-mill category of horror films. What it made interesting to me wasn’t the monster or the backstory or even the jump scares; it was the idea of building a horror movie around a bedbound woman who has to talk through a computer. As the film progresses, she slowly regains some use of her voice, but for the majority she’s having to type her “Something tried to kill me last night!” messages on a keyboard while emoting like crazy through her eyes and facial expressions. That ticked the “well, never seen that before” box. Plus, I did find it oddly charming that they all had Irish accents. I’m not up to date on my Irish horror, obviously.

      So, if you do end up watching Nails I hope you see with modest expectations.

      And thank you for The Ravenous recommendation. I had actually watched the first couple of minutes of it before moving on to Nails. I just…I’m just over the zombie genre right now. It’s the same reason I haven’t watched The Girl with All the Gifts on Amazon Prime yet. Still, I gave Ravenous a chance due to its proximity to Veronica in Netflix’s trending section, but after a rather typical zombie movie opening, I thought I knew what I was in for and checked out.

      I was wrong. Based on your recommendation, I gave the film a second chance yesterday and couldn’t stop watching even though I had so many other things I needed to do. It plays, to me, like an art house Walking Dead which, either through budget concerns or artistic design, has a fascinating post-fact approach to its gore. Time and time again, we see the aftermath of the violence, not the actual violence itself, and when the cast members start getting picked off one by one it creates this really interesting abruptness. Also, the little girl is adorable, and I’m still trying to figure out what was up with the chair tower.

      My read at the moment is the film taps into this sense that we as humans are a failing race and doomed to destroy ourselves. What we will leave behind on Earth are our possessions, like all those chairs, but Earth will move on perfectly fine without us, thus the repeated shots of the bugs slowly inching along. But, it doesn’t have to go down like that. There’s still hope in the form of future generations that can clean up the mess we’ve made of the world, thus the little girl being the sole survivor.

      But I could be way off or I could also just be reading too much into it.

      Either way, thanks for giving me the push to check it out.

      Reply

      1. Nails definitely does sound like something I would like and it almost sounds similar to Hush (minus the Irish accents), where the scariest part of the movie is the murderer playing with their victim’s has a disability. So, nails sounds terrifying to me.

        I am so happy you watched that movie because I was trying to think about the chairs forever. It has been a while since I have really had to interpret a movie, but I think your interpretation is spot on and makes so much sense. That is actually something I think about all the time, especially in terms of climate change.

        Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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