Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In short: Nailbiter (2013)

Despite an acute tornado warning, Janet Maguire (Erin McGrane) packs her daughters Jennifer (Meg Saricks), Alice (Emily Boresow) and Sally (Sally Spurgeon) into a car to make the long drive through the countryside to reach the airport where her husband will come back from one of the USA’s many wars against brown people.

Alas, the tornado warning is only all too correct, and the family just barely manages to find shelter in the storm cellar of a farm on the outskirts of some godforsaken small town on their way to the airport. Turns out it would probably have been healthier for everyone involved if they’d have tried the tornado, for there’s some thing prowling outside that doesn’t want the family to leave. Even worse, there’s also someone boarding the cellar up from the outside, leaving the Maguires trapped even once the storm has passed. They’ll need quite a bit of determination to survive the ordeal in front of them, and even then, they might not all survive.

Patrick Rea’s Nailbiter is a wonderful little film that uses a variation on a classic monster that should be more than just a little bit silly but which works – at least in parts – well because the film doesn’t treat that variation as something silly at all, leaving the ironic winking to others. This doesn’t mean the film doesn’t possess a sense of humour; rather, it prefers to be sardonic but really focuses on other things, using all the tricks in the suspense book to keep its audience excited. Even better, Rea is actually quite great at this.

Consequently, Nailbiter, like all tight and exciting low budget monster movies convinces by using its necessarily small cast and small (yet not warehouse-bound) number of locations as the ideal way to focus on a pacy and exciting execution, with a plot that escalates a bad situation into a horrifying one with very precise steps, just revealing enough of its mythology to make its audience nervous for its characters. It’s exceedingly well done, executed with a decided lack of fat, with no scene after the simple yet effective introduction of its characters that isn’t driving things forward and making the situation of the protagonists more precarious.

In a way, Nailbiter is a decidedly simple movie, but it is a simplicity based on clear decisions about what the film is supposed to be about, and what it is supposed to do with its audience, leaving a film that does exactly what it sets out to do, and does so very well.

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