Nails (aka Gvozdi) Movie Review

Written by Daniel Benson

Released by Unearthed Films

Written and directed by Andrey Iskanov
2003, 60 minutes, Not rated

Alexander Shevchenko as Hitman
Irina Nikitina as Hitgirl
Svyatoslav Iliyasov as Hitman/Creature
Andrey Iskanov as Boss/Creature voice/Second Psychiatrist Voice
Alexandra Batrumova as Boss's Girl
Victor Silkin as First Psychiatrist Voice
Igor Orlov as Mirror Ghost


Trepanning (also known as Trepanation): a form of surgery in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the skull, thus exposing the dura mater. Allegedly, it addresses health problems related to intracranial diseases, like epidural and subdural

A hitman is haunted by visions of what he does. During a panic attack, he collapses on the floor over a magazine article about trepanning. The article describes people who had hammered nails into their skulls, and had suffered few, if any, ill effects.

To try to relieve his horrific flashbacks, he decides to try hammering 6-inch nails into his skull. As he beats home the first batch of steel shafts, his suffering is lifted and he sees the world with greater clarity.

Unfortunately, the clear vision of the hitman’s world is far more terrifying than the flashbacks he was suffering. Like a junkie, he starts to rely on the nails more often, and in bigger quantities.

Once the nails stop helping, he turns to the only thing he can. The electric drill…



Nails is one of a series of surreal, psychedelic, gore movies called HalluCinoGeNnN, by Russian director Andrey Iskanov. It will eventually be released on DVD by Unearthed Films, but I have been lucky enough to see a preview direct from Andrey himself.

And what a headfuck it is.

I normally tire very quickly of surreal movies, as my simple brain just doesn’t function when having to decipher metaphors and imagery. Sit me in front of something like Eraserhead, and I’ll be reaching for the ‘off’ switch faster than you can say “lady in the radiator”.

Nails had an altogether different effect. I couldn’t drag myself away from it, even though it was miles away from the standard movie format. Iskanov has made clever use of both monochrome and colour filming, to represent the two stages of the hitman’s life. The movie opens in black and white, during his ‘tortured’ phase and just after the first batch of nails goes in, it switches to colour as his outlook on life has greater clarity. The constant industrial noise in the soundtrack fades away to comfortable peace and quiet as he starts this new phase.

As the hitman sees the essence of life more clearly, even the most mundane things begin to take a different form. His food no longer looks tasty and delicious, instead it shows its true form as processed junk. Each can the hitman opens contains something more disgusting than the last…penis soup anyone?

He begins to see himself and his girlfriend as they truly are; soulless plastic mannequins with no purpose other than to end life. Perhaps it is the true vision of his life that drives him further to keep using the nails and finally the drill. Imagine the scene in Evil Dead 2, where Ash goes mad and all the furniture taunts him. Then multiply it by ten and make it last for an hour — that’s pretty much how Nails plays out. It's like a hybrid of the cyberpunk violence of Tetsuo and the work of Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromatik, Der Todesking).

The closing scenes, where he carries out his ad hoc bathroom brain surgery, are truly repugnant and will live with you long after the credits roll. The infernal whine of the drill, mixed with the splitting and cracking sounds as his skull gives way, are a great soundtrack to accompany the footage of a man pulling out his own frontal lobe. If you ever want to spend an hour inside the tortured mind of a contract killer, then get pushed to the edge of sanity and beyond, Nails is for you.

You don’t watch Nails, you experience it.


Picture, Sound and Special Features.

Not rated, as this was a screener copy only.


Movie: 3 Stars
Video: n/a
Audio: n/a
Features: n/a
Overall: 3 Stars

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About The Author
Daniel Benson
UK Editor / Webmaster
Fuelled mostly by coffee and a pathological desire to rid the world of bad grammar, Daniel has found his calling by picking holes in other people's work. In the rare instances he's not editing, he's usually breaking things in the site's back end.
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