DIR: Dennis Bartok • WRI: Tom Abrams, Denis Bartok • PRO: Brendan McCarthy, John McDonnell • DOP: James Mather • ED: John Walters • DES: Damian Draven • DES: Til Frohlich • MUS: Ade Fenton • CAST: Shauna Macdonald, Ross Noble, Steve Wall, Leah McNamara, Richard Foster-King
Nails is an Irish horror film with fantastic jump scares and a deflated sense of purpose. Following a horrific car accident, Dana (Shauna Macdonald) finds herself paralyzed, unable to speak or walk and confined to a hospital bed. Despite a friendship with nurse Trevor (Ross Noble), and frequent visits from her husband Steve (Steve Wall) and daughter Gemma (Leah McNamara), Dana is extremely ill at ease. Following a series of violent supernatural occurrences which are written off as night terrors, Dana soon finds herself tormented by Nails (Richard Foster-King), the vicious spirit of murderous nurse who is out for the blood of one last victim.
With the slasher/gore horror film’s tendency to explore the need to dominate, maim, and control (often female) bodies, Nails takes the convention a step further by having a protagonist who is completely bed-bound, unable to coherently cry for help or run to escape attack. The movie is also careful to indicate Dana’s deteriorating physical strength; as the film opens she is a fit, health-obsessed woman who wakes early to work out and go jogging, but by its midpoint she’s barely able to lift herself up. Her weakness is juxtaposed against Nails’ autonomous physicality; he is tall and quick moving, and gets his name for the sharp, unkempt nails he uses to torture Dana. When we learn that Nails had once been a nurse at the hospital, our understanding of his authority grows. Granted access to young female patients, he would kill them before clipping their nails and storing them in envelopes for safe keeping. This positions Nails as an aggressive masculine presence whose one drive is the violent physical violation and dominance of feminine bodies.
A lot of time is put into emphasising Nails’ interest in Dana, with the initial revelation of her time spent in the hospital as a child spurring exciting questions. Why is Nails so preoccupied with her in particular? Did she warn the other girls? Did she raise the alarm? However, the potential behind these questions fizzles out once it’s confirmed that Nails simply wishes to kill Dana because she didn’t die the first time. In this way a horror film filled with potential – it’s aesthically creepy, it boasts quite good effects, it has a story that could inspire insightful development – starts to fall flat. The motive just isn’t gripping enough. And as a result, Dana’s final self-sacrificial act just seems pointlessly hollow, and the film doesn’t get its final girl.
Sadhbh Ni Bhroin
16 (See IFCO for details)
Nails is released 16th June 2017