Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cellar dweller: NAILBITER(2013)

As a lifelong fan of horror movies I've found it more difficult to enjoy low(er) budget independent horror films. Maybe I'm getting spoiled by CGI in my advancing years...or maybe it's just because there aren't many directors who can make a decent horror movie now using practical effects on a smaller budget. While that may well be the case it certainly isn't for Patrick Rea, director of Nailbiter, released staright to DVD back in 2013. Director Patrick Rea helmed Nailbiter on a reported budget of $300,000 and, for me anyway, he cranked out a horror movie well worth checking out for die hard horror movie fans.

The film's story: Kansas native "Janet Maguire"(played by Erin McGrane) jumps in the family car and heads to an airport in Kansas City(Kansas) to meet and greet her husband, a U.S. serviceman on a flight home from a long deployment overseas. The mother takes her three young daughters "Jennifer", "Alice" and "Sally" along for the trip to the airport. While on their way to the airport in stormy weather, the mother and daughters are forced to abandon their vehicle on the side of the road when a tornado bears down on them. The group finds refuge in the basement cellar of a small countryside house. The storm subsides and the tornado passes...but the group cannot exit the cellar because a large tree limb has fallen across the cellar doors. Later "Sally", one of the daughters, tries to escape but something outside the house bites her arm and she is forced to retreat back into the cellar. Then the trapped family hears voices and nails pounding someone is boarding up the cellar windows and cellar doors locking them inside!

At this point you might not think things can get any worse...but they do as the mother and her three girls realize there is something else in the basement with them. Eventually the terrified family encounters that "something", a hostile and bloodthirsty, humanoid monster. From this point on it's a fight for survival as the group tries to survive the creature's attacks. (no other spoilers as I would reveal too much of the plot)

Observations, some positive and some not:

Thumbs up:

-director Patrick Rea does a great job at building up the suspense and sense of peril and dread in this movie, mostly by not revealing the creature(s) too soon.

 -the creature effects are all practical which I wholeheartedly approve of!

-the rendering of the creatures is IMO terrific. While I wouldn't characterize the monsters as werewolves they have a definite lupine quality with gaping jaws, what look life fore-claws and razor sharp teeth that look more like jagged shards of glass than, well teeth. I also thought the orb like, milky white eyes of the beasts added to their "creep" factor.

-Meg Saricks, who plays the oldest daughter. is the only actor I thought was effective throughout this film - at the beginning of the movie she seems melancholy, disinterested in life in general and disconnected emotionally not only from her mother but her two sisters. As the movie progresses her character definitely steps up for her family and she shows real character in the face of danger and calamity.

 -the nature of the monsters themselves. There's never any clear cut explanation given as to what the creatures are or why people transform into these beasts...but their transformations are linked somehow to the stormy weather which apparently triggers the transformations. An unusual aspect of this movie that I found cool and original. A "Dread Central" reviewer of this movie likened the story to something out of an "X Files" TV episode and I agree with this sentiment.

 -the ending of the film which included a plot twist(always welcome for me).

 Thumbs down:

-the overall acting in this movie, except for Meg Saricks, was for me fairly well lacking.

 -the movie's score sounded rather ordinary.

 -the screen time for the monsters is too limited. I would have liked seeing more of the creatures.

Fans of this horror movie should definitely check this one out! It airs on the "Chiller" cable channel from time to time and is also available on DVD at Amazon. The film's IMDB page: IMDB page for NAILBITER film

A trailer: