Nails Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Kaleidoscope Entertainment
Directed by Dennis Bartok
Written by Tom Abrams and Dennis Bartok
2017, 85 minutes, Not yet rated
Released on 16th June 2017
Shauna Macdonald as Dana Milgrom
Ross Noble as Trevor Helms
Steve Wall as Steve Milgrom
Charlotte Bradley as Beth Leaming
After nearly being killed in a messy traffic accident, fit mom and track coach Dana (horror heroine for our age Shauna Macdonald) is left all smashed up in a hospital bed, unable to speak or move. Entirely bed-bound and using a computer to speak, she becomes intimately aware of a ghostly presence in her room... and not just that of gruff but friendly hospital bottom washer Trevor.
It has an evocative, creepy one-word title, an all-English cast and Ross Noble in a key role, but Nails couldn’t be any more different from the comedian’s horror movie debut, Stitches. For one, Noble is playing it almost completely straight here, as Nurse Trevor. The film’s lead is Macdonald, who does a sterling job acting from the confines of a hospital bed, barely able to speak for much of it. Terrorised by visions – and the all too real physical manifestation – of a grotesque, malevolent creature with far-too-long fingernails, Dana must figure out how to protect herself when she can’t even wash without help. Best keep Ross Noble and his baseball bat on side, then.
Barely seen but keenly felt through all of it, Nails is the Slenderman-esque figure in the darkness, wisely hidden by director and co-writer Dennis Bartok. Its heroine being bedbound for virtually the whole film leaves Nails feeling lacking in momentum at times, but also adds to the sense of vulnerability and claustrophobia we and Dana have to put up with. In addition to the shudder-worthy idea behind the design (cut your fingernails, dude), there’s an exciting, creepy mythology to Nails – the kind which would easily lead to a whole franchise if this were a bigger budget American outing. At times, it rips pages directly out of the Freddy Krueger playbook, swapping the knife-glove for two handfuls of dirty fingernails.
But all of this would be for naught if Nails didn’t have the scares to back it up – which, thankfully, it does. Nails is far scarier and much more tense than you’d imagine anything starring Ross Noble might be capable of. Granted, there’s a cheap Creepypasta vibe to its more obvious scares (most notably involving Noble, a hole and a webcam), and the Krueger love borders on outright plagiarism during its finale, but Nails has the shocks and jump scares of a big-budget Blumhouse horror. It's a shame that the film's low budget will likely lose it the audience it deserves, as its louder scares would play well to a big, appreciative, half-drunk crowd on the big screen, as opposed to wasted on dingy DVD or home streaming. Even from the confines of my sofa, staring at a laptop screen, I jumped.
The grace and tenacity of Shauna Macdonald (the Scottish Naomi Watts, in the very best way) lends the film a sense of class it might have otherwise missed out on in a lesser actress, while comedian Ross Noble prevents it from getting too bogged down in her inherent seriousness (as with any Shauna Macdonald performance she cries a lot, but we’ll let her off - she has just been run over). It’s barely a ‘good’ performance by any measure, but it is a likeable, naturalistic one, employing the comedian’s grumpier side and potty mouth to fun effect.
If it begins to wear thin towards the end, we can let Bartok and Tom Abrams (the other writer) off – Nails is a genuinely creepy, often (jump) scary British answer to A Nightmare On Elm Street that hits far more than it misses. Nailed it.