27th Oct2017

‘Nails’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Shauna Macdonald, Leah McNamara, Ross Noble, Steve Wall, Dennis Bartok, Charlotte Bradley, Richard Foster-King, Robert O’Mahoney, Muireann D’Arcy | Written by Tom Abrams, Dennis Bartok | Directed by Dennis Bartok


Dana Milgrom is a track coach, who having survived a near-death car accident, finds herself almost completely paralysed and trapped inside her own body. While recovering, she becomes convinced that some evil presence exists inside her hospital room and is intent on killing her. No one believes her, not even her own family, who think she’s experienced a mental breakdown. However, Dana soon realises she may not be the only target. As the hauntings become more disturbing and violent Dana’s life is increasingly at risk – as well as the person she cares most about: her teenage daughter, Gemma.

In recent years it seems Ireland’s genre community has flourished, producing films like The Hallow, Let Us Prey, Grabbers and the more recent A Dark Song; well now comes the latest effort, Nails – from the producers of the aforementioned The Hallow and Let Us Prey. But unlike other other Irish horror, Nails takes its inspiration from American genre cinema rather than traditional British horror and Irish folklore that other recent hits have mined.

You see Nails features a ghost-like villain with long nails and a ridiculous backstory: a long-fingered Freddy Kreuger wannabe floating in and out of Dana’s room with the same supernatural force that Kreuger displayed. Only Nails doesn’t say a word, instead he skulks round, grimacing and trying his damnedest to look menacing as a Slenderman knock-off can. But how can audiences take a former mental patient turned nurse, turned “Angel of Mercy” seriously if the cast don’t? You see, apart from Shauna Macdonald and Ross Noble (in a rare straight man role), not one member of this films cast seems to give a damn about the movie, they all act like they’re going through the motions – but maybe that’s because there’s little for them to do other than argue with Dana and each other about the existence of Dana’s mysterious attacker – I’d soon get bored if that was my only job on a film!

Thankfully Shauna Macdonald, as the bed-bound Dana, puts in a superb performance – managing to convey more emotion, more terror and more character from the confines of her bed (and without the use of her voice for the most part) than you’d expect; running the gamut of emotion with using just her mannerisms and facial expressions. It’s a testament to just how good a performer Macdonald is. If the film had just focussed on her and Noble, rather than including the rest of the cast I’m sure it would have made for a better, more claustrophobic, tauter terror flick.

Unfortunately the rest of the film can’t back up Macdonald’s performance. Whilst it’s packed with some cool visuals (Nails’ attack on a hospital nurse for example), the script throws in a myriad of plot threads that are never followed up on  and totally abandons the psychological aspects of the films early moments – instead they’re tossed aside in favour of a climax that sees Nails go on a murderous killing spree a la every Nightmare on Elm Street you’ve ever seen. Oh, and FYI, “I see dead people” is completely played out as a plot conceit…

Nails is out now on DVD from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment.


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