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Nailbiter (2012)

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nailbiters - Nailbiter (2012)Starring Erin McGrane, Meg Saricks, Sally Spurgeon, Emily Boresow, Joicie Appell

Directed by Patrick Rea

As a former Midwesterner, I know that tornadoes are serious business, which made writer/director Patrick Rea’s latest endeavor, Nailbiter, all the more effective of a high-tension indie thriller for this writer. Whereas most movies centered around a devastating tornado like to revel in the high drama of that, here Rea takes us someplace else far more subtle and creepier, giving viewers a whole lot more to fear than the high velocity clouds circling about.

Nailbiter follows the struggling Maguire family, including a recovering alcoholic mother and her three daughters, who get caught in the middle of a tornado emergency while traveling to pick up Mr. Maguire from the airport as he’s been stationed overseas to fight for some time now. When the weather gets to be too much to handle, Janet (McGrane) and her girls take shelter in the storm cellar of a seemingly abandoned old farm house but quickly find that not only are they not alone, they have been trapped alongside something far more dangerous than a tornado.

As an independent feature, Nailbiter manages to come up with an intriguing premise reminiscent of something you’d see on an early episode of “The X-Files,” and Rea should be commended for what he manages to achieve with his latest work on a restricted budget. As someone who has always enjoyed Rea’s work as a short film storyteller, I feel Nailbiter demonstrates that the indie filmmaker has the chops to continue working in feature-length projects.

The only real downside to Nailbiter is the acting, which admittedly is something that tends to happen more often than not in indie films, but my complaints are minimal overall. As the film’s lead McGrane took a little too long to settle into her performance as a recovering alcoholic mother who’s been left behind to raise three daughters while her husband fights a dangerous war thousands of miles away. Around the second act McGrane loosens up a bit, and after that her work is serviceable. However, while there was also mention of her character having some conflicting feelings about her husband’s return, which I thought was an interesting twist, that never seems to go anywhere unfortunately.

As the eldest Maguire girl, Jennifer, Saricks turns in really strong work in Nailbiter, and I would definitely love to see her show up in more features down the road. The other two Maguire girls are also very likable and do well in the film, but it’s Appell’s performance as the creepy old Mrs. Shurman that steals the show.

Nailbiter is another home run for Rea and his SenoReality indie stable of horror with the filmmaker proving once again his ability to craft a unique and captivating story that demonstrates ambition and his progression as a storyteller. While not a perfect flick, there’s a lot to appreciate about Nailbiter. It would definitely be a great film to check out during a festival run (which I encourage Rea to start focusing on now that the movie is finished). It’s ingenious, creepy and a delightful modern take on an old-school sense of storytelling. Indie fans will no doubt want to check out Nailbiter for themselves when the film begins screening.

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3 out of 5

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