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Nails (2017) Review

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After a hit-and-run accident, badly-injured Dana Milgrom (Shauna Macdonald) believes her private hospital room is haunted by serial killer Eric Nilsson (Richard Foster-King). Though her husband Steve (Steve Wall) and doctor (Robert O’Mahoney) disbelieve her, orderly Trevor (Ross Noble) and Dana’s daughter Gemma (Leah McNamara) are eventually convinced of supernatural danger.

★★★★★

Being cast as the woman in a horror movie who is the target of the main menace usually entails a lot of running and screaming, but Shauna Macdonald — who has had more than a few run-ins with monsters since surviving The Descent — is here confined by shattered legs to a bed and has to breathe through a tube in her neck, so her voice is generated by a laptop app that doesn’t always work.

It’s often a given in horror that husbands and medical professionals are useless.

It’s often a given in horror that husbands and medical professionals are useless. Writer-director Dennis Bartok thoroughly endorses this convention as the heroine’s complaints of night-time apparitions are written off as paranoid ravings. Indeed, for this story to work, the heroine has to be surrounded by stick figure cliché characters — only Ross Noble’s practical orderly — concerned about the ‘cloth wiring’ of the run-down institution — shows any spirit. With minimal help, it’s down to the croaking and eventually stumbling patient to face up to the Nosferatu-like ghost goon who shambles out of the wardrobe where he hanged himself to terrorise the hospital.

Made in Ireland, this has the feel of a script that has floated about for a while — Bartok’s last credit was writing and producing the little-seen 2006 anthology Trapped Ashes — 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.

The film gets its best scares when it drops its plot altogether and turns the lights out so Nails can suddenly go on a killing spree to rid us of the useless supporting characters while the heroine shows her against-the-odds gumption in protecting her daughter.

An ordinary, if effective horror picture, is predictable fare with two big ticks to its benefit: a penchant for creep-out scares involving its looming spectre; and a committed, sympathetic performance from Macdonald.

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