Nails is a 2017 Irish horror film directed by Dennis Bartok, making his feature debut, from a screenplay co-written with Tom Abrams. Producers Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell, of Fantastic Films, recent movies include Let Us Prey, The Hallow, Stitches, Wake Wood and Cherry Tree.
Happily married track coach and mother, Dana Milgrom, survives a near-death car accident only to find herself paralyzed and trapped inside her own body.
Forced to communicate via an artificial voice program and hooked to a breathing machine, she becomes convinced that a terrifying presence called “Nails” exists inside her hospital room. No-one believes her – not even her own husband and doctors, who think she’s experiencing a mental breakdown…
The film stars Scottish actress Shauna Macdonald as Dana Milgrom, which required long hours of makeup to create her graphic injuries and tremendous preparation and focus to portray a character who is paralysed and forced to communicate via laptop for most of the film.
Macdonald was in Neil Marshall’s seminal horror film The Descent (2005) and its sequel (2009). British stand-up comedian and actor Ross Noble (Stitches) co-stars as Trevor Helms, a nurse’s aide at Hopewell Hospital who slowly comes to believe that Dana’s paranoid visions may be real.
Writer/director Dennis Bartok has commented: “Most horror films are about running away – Nails is the opposite: it’s about being locked inside your own flesh with the terror. I don’t think there’s any other actress who could give the performance Shauna did: her concentration and emotional rawness took the film to a whole different level.”
Buy DVD: Amazon.co.uk
Reviews [may contain spoilers]:
“The story is engaging, the characters are mostly sympathetic, and the scares are fun. Your mileage may vary as far as what you expect from modern horror, those for whom arthouse horror is the only way forward may not be as enamored of the film as I am. However, if you’re looking for some honest to goodness scares, Nails is the ticket.” J Hurtado, Screen Anarchy
“Nails is far scarier and much more tense than you’d imagine anything starring Ross Noble might be capable of. Granted, there’s a cheap Creepypasta vibe to its more obvious scares (most notably involving Noble, a hole and a webcam), and the Krueger love borders on outright plagiarism during its finale, but Nails has the shocks and jump scares of a big-budget Blumhouse horror.” Joel Harley, Horror Talk
“Even though characters normally seen in the horror narrative are not easy to relate to, the pain shown through Dana is universal – the feeling of being alone and isolated, which adds an interesting dynamic to the character. Overall, Nails does deliver some scares and a plot that keeps the audience interested, but lacks some necessary drama when at the climax.” Manisha Sondhi, The Up Coming
“Things go bump in the night for Shauna McDonald’s Dana, but there’s nothing truly terrifying about Nails’ off-screen spooks and poorly CGI-ed ghosts. If the film had taken more chances to create some genuine terror this may have been successfully scary, but Nails falls victim to its own fear of stepping outside its horror comfort zone and becomes just another hospital haunting.” Jessy Williams, Scream magazine
“Predictable plotting, dull dialogue, slim scope, and other substandard stylings can be absolved as “so what?” slips of no big deal import. But the film’s rushed resolution smacks of unenthusiastic carelessness to get a quick flick in the can and pinch it out to the public. That’s a frustrating cinema sin that insults the audience, which is far more difficult to forgive.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt
“Nails himself appears to have Freddy Krueger-like dream aspirations – albeit preferring to skip manicures instead of threat-enhancing finger knives. Sadly, without recourse to witty pun-laden one-liners, he is somewhat limited to dramatically opening supply cupboard doors, scraping Shauna MacDonald’s paralysed bedsore legs, and scratching out an ominous message on her bare tummy.” Paul Worts, Fleapits and Picture Palaces
“Altogether it’s a simple, but relatively satisfying, horror film. Bartok clearly has some genre awareness but Nails feels too old school to properly fit in with the Irish New Wave. It’s a mixed bag of popcorn spooks and gutting emotional trauma, led by a distractingly engaging performance from Shauna Macdonald. Bartok might not have his finger on the pulse of contemporary terror, but he does fine with Nails.” Scott Clark, Starburst
“As for the looming twist that can be seen a mile off and is ever present in horror films today, this one really falls flat as the posters are figuratively strewn across the walls of the hospital. With predictable jump scares loitering the 85 minute runtime, the best scares come towards the final act of the film with Nails being allowed to really show the supporting cast what he is made off.” HeyUGuys
“ …we are treated to hammy acting in dingy environs with flickering lights, jump scares and an alternating droning/screeching soundtrack that screams “stock scary music”. Nails manages to make 87 minutes drag, then ends abruptly and clumsily.” Geek Ireland
“The special effects for this one are a bit too digital, the gore is near non-existent, in it’s place we get some surprisingly bloodless skin lacerations, but the film succeeds in creating a sense of isolation and helplessness, wrapped in claustrophobia with some decent hospital horror atmosphere. Not a high recommend, but a damn decent Irish horror entry that shouldn’t be ignored.” Ken Kastenhuber, McBastard’s Mausoleum
” …this has the feel of a script that has floated about for a while […] and could be rewritten depending on which country’s National Film Board coughed up the funds. Though Nails the ghost has a great poster-hogging scary look, and presumably hopes to land a franchise, he’s a rather basic Freddy Krueger clone, and the eventual reveal of why he’s targeting this patient is pretty thin.” Kim Newman, Empire
“With solid direction, story and scripting Nails blends a whole host of horror concepts and clichés you would expect to find within this set up including corrupt management, family drama, a slightly psychotic psychotherapist in the form of Robert O’Mahoney Dr. Stengel, Noble’s comedic yet slightly creepy nurse and the revelation of the hospitals secret past all managing to remain entertaining and engaging regardless.” Love Horror
” …a cheerfully derivative exercise in jump scares, dark shadows and low-budget-driven aesthetics […] With its creepy music and only-just-adequate performances, this will serve nicely at future slumber parties for thrill-seeking tweens.” Leslie Felperin, The Guardian
“It builds up nicely, features a strikingly oppressive atmosphere, a visually impressive ghost, and the first few frights are high on the tension meter – but when it comes time to unleash the beast, the best it can offer is a woefully drawn-out rendition of a scare we’ve seen a million times before.” Gareth Jones, Dread Central
Co-writer/director Dennis Bartok talks to Heather Wixson for Daily Dead
Image credits: Love Horror
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