While recovering from a traumatic accident, our lead character Dana (Shauna Macdonald) is forced to deal with a ghost out for blood in the new film, Nails. While able to set up quite a few genuine scares and an impressive sense of foreboding and tension throughout most of the film, Nails seems to fall flat by the end, leaving me wishing for a more satisfying ending.
Dana Milgrom lives with her husband Steve (Steve Wall) in Ireland with their young tween daughter, Gemma (Leah McNamara). During a morning run Dana is struck by a car and nearly killed, landing her in the hospital without use of her legs, and requiring her to be on a respirator. [I have to give props to the sfx team here–her facial wounds look amazing, and the work on the ghost, later, look great as well.]
As a result of the accident, she’s completely reliant on others to assist her, only able to make vague sounds and type out things on her laptop, which has a text-to-speech enabled device on it. This is one of the aspects of the film I liked a great deal. While our lead character spends much of the movie alone and unable to speak, her writing on the computer, journaling her daily life, is a way for her to ‘speak’ and monologue about her thoughts.
This comes in handy when our ‘ghost’ finally shows up on the scene, a man by the name of Nails. That isn’t his real name, of course, but a nickname provided by staff at the hospital when he was a nurse due to his unkempt fingernails. It seems he killed five young patients before killing himself, and is now haunting Dana. People disbelieve her to varying degrees–but the one who thinks she’s completely mental is her husband, Steve.
We find out through interactions with her husband that he used to be married to someone else, but fell in love with Dana, then divorced his wife for her. This leads to an entire side plot which I genuinely felt was unnecessary and bogged down what could have been a more honed story about a woman who isn’t believed by the man she trusted most. Her daughter Gemma, though, is a genuinely wonderful character whose interactions with her mother and the situations around her seem believable. She isn’t afraid to pursue the idea that her mother might be haunted, and proves to be her mother’s strongest ally in the end.
After the reveal of who Nails is, the plot unrolls slowly, allowing for some genuinely suspenseful and spooky moments. The score and cinematography help set up the idea that there is something wrong, but like Dana, there is no real way we can escape it. Nails’ motivations aren’t truly spelled out, and his powers seem to suit whatever the plot needs him to do at the time, which is a frustration. I believe that any story can work as long as ‘rules’ exist–but those rules must be told to the viewer in some fashion–and they must be adhered to.
As I said at the start, if the movie had continued as the first two acts had, I would have very little to complain about; I think the story is a unique spin on a haunting, especially with the idea of a woman being trapped. However, the third act genuinely lets the rest of the film down. It becomes something more akin to a dumb slasher flick, where the characters make less than intelligent choices just to further the death count and the ghost’s purpose.
It’s disappointing; again I think this movie has a great deal of potential, but without giving too much away, the movie’s ending feels less than satisfying, especially given the build up we had in the first hour.
That being said, I still think the movie is worth watching. Dana’s arc is compelling, even if it does fall short in the end. There are some great scares, as well, and the mood is well established–I just wish, like so many other horror films, it had been able to seal the deal.