Star Rating:


Director: Dennis Bartok

Actors: Ross Noble, Shauna MacDonald, Steve Wall

Release Date: Friday 16th June 2017

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: 85 minutes

A victim of a hit-and-run, the head injuries suffered by track coach Dana (Macdonald) have rendered her paralyzed, with gaps in her memory and loss of speech to boot. Bed-ridden in a lonely ward in a cheap hospital, the only one she and her husband (Wall) can afford, Dana begins to hallucinate, seeing a strange figure looming over her at night. With everyone thinking this is a result of her head injury, and nurse Trevor (Noble) convinced that the marks on her body are self-inflicted, the terrified Dana goes about researching who the shadowy person might be and discovers that this hospital once employed a mentally unhinged nurse, nicknamed Nails (Richard Foster-King) who murdered children and kept their nail clippings…

Two thirds of Nails, co-written and directed by American Dennis Bartok, does a job. Tapping into that nightmare of sleep paralysis where there's something in the room coming for you and you can't move, coupled with the inability to cry out for help (Dana is reduced to communicating via a laptop) ensures that this supernatural aspects of this horror remains close to home – we've all had that dream at some point.

Confining the action, for the most part, to this lonely ward, Bartok works hard to sustain the rising terror and creates a real sense of isolation and claustrophobia. It might borrow visually from Misery, Ring, Paranormal Activity, and the Hush episode from Buffy, but Nails keeps one guessing. Is this all in Dana's head? Is her paranoia stemming from Dana's husband's relationship with teenager, Ashley (Muireann D'Arcy), when already left first his wife to be with Dana? The softly spoken but creepy hospital psychiatrist Dr. Stengal (a fun Robert O'Mahoney) seems to be up to something. And who is the stroke victim communicating with Dana by banging on the wall in the next ward? Bartok's also got Shauna Macdonald (great in The Descent and great here) who is given the unenviable task of emoting almost everything with only her eyes. All this works.

But Nails comes a cropper as it approaches its third act. Bartok undoes all the good work of exploring Dana's paranoia when he branches out to include Trevor's battles with whatever is scratching behind the walls, and hospital administrator Leaming (Charlotte Bradley) struggling to keep the hospital's past a secret; moving from Dana's point of view by taking the action outside the ward pours water on the idea that this is all in her head and diminishes the psychological terror the story worked so hard to instil. After that it descends into a predictable horror shlock affair.