After surviving an almost fatal accident, Dana (Shauna McDonald) recovers in hospital, but is soon terrorised by an evil presence that lurks in her room. Her fight for survival becomes a race against time as she struggles to convince those around her that her life is on the line.
Nails is quite possibly one of the most difficult reviews of the year for me. For starters it contains many elements that I totally love, for instance an empty hospital setting that always brings memories of Halloween II and Visiting Hours. A Bad guy that is straight out of the pages of a Wes Craven flick and enough creepy moments to remind you again, why you love the horror genre.
But while I can sit back and admire the attempt on offer, I can’t help but feel that the film tries too hard to tick off all the boxes needed in what makes a proper horror flick work and its why you walk away feeling a bit empty, that while it passed a nice little hour and a half away, it offered nothing new and is instantly forgettable.
The beginning probably sums up what I am trying to explain. Shauna Macdonald plays Dana, a fitness coach who gets knocked down by a car and is left paralysed. Now horror veterans will notice that Macdonald is the actress who played Sarah in the horror classic The Descent, who also suffered a car accident in that film and awoke in a hospital. If you remember there was a brief scene of Sarah standing in the empty hospital when all of a sudden, the lights were being turned off behind her. Now remind yourself of that and you could say that the film spins off into an alternative reality, that Sarah never went on that cave trip, her name is actually Dana, and instead of fighting off monsters in the dark, she is fighting off just one…..a creepy one of that…..
Its a film littered with old reminders of past glories. The plot itself made me think of when Buffy Summers had the flu in the episode “Killed By Death” and had to tackle a demon who targeted children, but while the Vampire Slayer had her kickboxing abilities, poor Dana is trapped in a bed, with only a laptop in front of her.
While that should work and at times it does, you can not help but shake your head at the many things that happen. The checklist of “How to Make a Horror” is in full play with the typical, “Whose there?” and “What do you want?”, lines that come across even more comical when Dana is not exactly saying the words but typing them into the laptop that speaks what she want’s to say. I mean if I hear a strange noise in a creepy hospital, I be too busy shitting myself than actually write down those words, and if I did write something it would probably be “HELP!”…while pressing the alarm by the side of my bed.
Nails himself is a decent horror creation even though you can smell the desperation of a “new franchise icon” right from the moment he is revealed, which was way too early for my liking as it rid the film of the mystery that it surely needed. Tension and suspense plays a long way into making a successful horror movie and by letting us see Nails so early, I was already guessing what was going to happen in the third act, when instead I would have loved to have been alongside Dana, wondering just what was making those noises.
More unnecessary plot padding infuriates that entices, especially the usual “while I am in hospital, is my husband having an affair?” story angle that I believe no one will really care about, but as the action ramps up in the last half, you’ll probably find yourself still watching and your enjoyment levels will differ from either not minding seeing all this again or sick of the same all tropes being offered up.
Director Dennis Bartok proves he knows the horror genre inside out, but in an age where fans are now expecting something new and fresh, especially with the likes of It Follows, The VVitch and the recent critically acclaimed Irish horror The Hallow, Nails may struggle due to its formulaic approach.
So this is where I am struggling. I really don’t want to give it a low star simply because I admired the many things on offer and with Macdonald the usual reliable lead, I can’t say I was bored at all and believe me you will have seen worse this year, but you do wish once the expected “unexpected” twist is revealed and the credits rolled, that Nails offered more for its premise.
It may have its cliche ridden plot nailed on (sorry) and offers virtually nothing new, but for an easy Friday night rental, then you can’t go wrong, especially for those who miss their early noughties ghoulish type J Horrors…….