Nails (2017)


NailsStarring Shauna Macdonald, Ross Noble, Steve Wall, Charlotte Bradley, Leah McNamara

Directed by Dennis Bartok

When her morning jog is thrown for a loop courtesy of a hit and run driver, Dana Milgrom (Macdonald) finds herself confined to a bed in a dilapidated – and apparently horribly understaffed – hospital. To make matters worse, the accident has left her paralysed from the waist down and unable to speak – her only means of communication being an awkward, computer-activated speech program.

To make matters even worse than that, it looks like her insurance company have her shacked up in a hospital that isn’t just shit… it’s also haunted.

As the nightly visitations from the lanky, long-nailed ghost that resides in her ward’s closet become more and more violent in nature, Dana battles to get hospital orderly Trevor (Noble) and her disbelieving husband, Steve (Wall), on side before it’s too late.

It’s a promising setup for an effective spookshow: Secluded location, freaky, aggressive ghost, and a protagonist/would-be victim who is sufficiently impaired that escape is impossible. And for the most part, Nails manages to live up to this promise as the story gets moving.

Macdonald carries the lead role admirably. Her utter disdain, not just for her own physical incapability but also for the infantilising way in which everyone else treats her now that she’s ill, comes through nicely with every heavy-lidded gaze and aggravated breath. Standing in high regard alongside her is comedian Ross Noble, who’s anything but funny in his completely straight-laced role. His character, Trevor, is one of the most interesting in the film – heavily conflicted, his hatred of his workplace sees him constantly torn as to whether or not he wants to get involved with Dana’s apparent delusions.

That is, until the truth is out – and refusing to get involved is no longer an option.

And this is also where Nails begins to unravel.

Whilst Dana’s core character thread is (mostly) solid, the less said about the minor appearances of the senior hospital staff, the better. A sub-plot involving Dana’s suspicion that her husband may be cheating on her helps bolster the notion that she may be losing her grip on reality, but it’s ultimately as ham-fisted as the rest of the awkward exchanges that attempt to broaden Nails’s story.

Bartok and his co-writer Tom Abrams avoid heading down the clichéd road of the ghost being the result of some heinous, covered-up wrongdoing within the hospital administration – an innocent soul wronged and back for vengeance – but they do unfold the narrative in a manner that revelations such as these are expected, and fail to fill the chasm left behind with anything of sufficient breadth. Instead, an equally cliché (and convenient) plot point is slotted in – leading to an admirably grim ending that’s rendered almost entirely impotent by bathetic staging that elicits a greater number of smirks than anything else.

Still, there’s enough of a functional good time here that it warrants giving Nails a tentative pass. 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.

So, just like the hospital in which it’s set, with Nails you’ll get passable treatment from a bunch of people who do care – but don’t expect any high class frills.

  • Film
User Rating 2.89 (19 votes)


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