Nails (2017)

Writers: Tom Abrams, Dennis Bartok
Director: Dennis Bartok

Nails begins in what we later learn is the Hopewell Hospital, back in the 1980s. A shadowy nurse/orderly enters the room of a young girl and gives her an injection. Then he cuts her nails and puts the clippings into an envelope.

Jump forward to present day and we’re introduced to fitness freak Dana (Shauna Macdonald ) and her husband Steve (Steve Wall). Whilst exercising, Dana suffers an accident and ends up in the Hopewell hospital. She has major injuries, cannot walk or use one arm, has to breathe through a tube and can’t speak. Basically she’s a sitting duck for a script writer.

As Dana becomes increasingly frustrated by her confinement, she begins to see and hear things at night. These visions become stronger and she’s convinced that someone is in her room and means her harm. When she researches the history of the hospital, she learns the story of Nails (Richard Foster-King) – who we saw in the pre-credit sequence. Nails killed five children in the hospital and eventually hanged himself. Needless to say, nobody else can see Nails, not even on CCTV.

Is Nails now back and after Dana? Can she see the dead as a result of her near death accident? Or is she imagining it all? Is her jealousy over her husband’s sporting colleague contributing to a psychological collapse? Is there a copycat killer in the hospital?

As things progress, we get some genuinely creepy sequences. There’s a lot of atmosphere to be had in these scenes and they’re gorgeously shot. Unfortunately the movie as a whole doesn’t quite gel and lacks overall narrative tension. The atmosphere is too “on-off”.

Once the story is revealed, we move into the final confrontation. Whilst excellent in its own right, the last act feels like it comes from a different film. Not only is the style different but it doesn’t entirely fit with the logic of what has gone before.

So Nails is a hit and miss film. Acting is great, especially Shauna Macdonald who does a great job showing Dana’s increasing anxiety, fear and possible psychosis without actually being able to say most of her lines (she types them into a voice synthersizer). The other characters all do their bit competently. Direction, when it works, works really well.

So yes, there are some great bits in Nails. But overall it never quite comes together and feels like a script that isn’t quite sure of its identity.