Dir. Christopher Smith (2023)
After her brother’s alleged suicide, Grace (Jena Malone) travels to the convent where he fell to his death. There, she finds that the Catholic Church is hiding something, believe it or not.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Catholicism is a belief system that is a bounteous source of horror, for, in my opinion, two main reasons. First, the beliefs themselves are almost universally understood, and even if the viewer doesn’t have personal experience within Catholicism, they’re likely at least passingly familiar with Christianity and its beliefs. If they’re Westerners, anyway. Second, Catholicism has had a good bit to do with many of the genre staples throughout the long and tumultuous history of the Church. Witches (check, or at least check for Catholicism’s Puritanical brethren), demons (double check), and the devil (you guessed it) run rampant through sermons and scripture, paving the way for the religion and the Church itself to put itself right at the center of horror. Also, nuns are creepy and priests aren’t a whole lot better. All that combines to make Catholicism just about the perfect base religion for a horror movie.
That is not, of course, to say that it always makes for a good horror movie. For every The Exorcist there is an Exorcist II: The Heretic, after all. Unfortunately, this one falls a bit closer to the latter, achieving a bit of creep factor but for the most part conforming more to cliché and pastiche of better films. It’s not for lack of trying, though: Malone is decent and phenomenal character actor Danny Huston, who plays main priest Father Romero in this film, is great. Writer/director Christopher Smith is no stranger to horror, having helmed the outstanding The Triangle and fan favorites Creep (not the Duplass one) and Severance as well. In Consecration, I fear he may have bitten off a little more than he could chew, because all of the story’s myriad elements fail to come together in a satisfying way that makes the film anything more than a middle-of-the-road mystery thriller.
That is, ultimately, where the film fails. By deciding not to fully pick a lane, insisting upon repeatedly jamming slightly-horror elements (someone always standing behind the main character in the darkness, the occasional flashbacks of bizarre rituals and previous abuse) into what is otherwise a basically-straightforward religious whodunnit prevents the movie from ever completely finding its footing. It isn’t bad as a thriller, though it’s almost a failure as a straight horror, and the combination of the two prevents it from ever fully hitting on either. It’s a shame, really, because there are some delightfully creepy moments, but they all feel like homages to the film’s inspirations rather than unique and original ideas.
At the end of the day, nuns are creepy as fuck, so there are some things to enjoy about the film. These nuns, specifically sister Meg (Eilidh Fisher) and Mother Superior (Janet Suzman), do 90% of the horror work here. The creepy, ritualistic visuals work occasionally, though they’re rarely explained, but if you’re looking for some cool shots of nuns in odd positions, it may well do the trick for you as a viewer. If you can wade through the bland and moody cinematography and stomach the complicated-though-somewhat-explained storyline, it manages to pack enough into 90 minutes that you won’t feel bored. Sadly, that’s often the most you can ask, and the film at least accomplishes that.
Who this movie is for: Religious horror nuts, Mystery/thriller fans, The Flying Nun
Bottom line: Disjointed at times and filled to the brim with exposition, Consecration tries to find its place in the long history of Catholic horror films but never finds its way. Instead, this pseudo-horror feels more like a supernatural Agatha Christie than anything else. The actors do a fine job, the saving grace in a film that feels more like a good idea that should’ve been fleshed out. Smith is a quite capable director, and I absolutely adored The Triangle for its creativity and inventiveness, as well as its ability to wrap up a totally convoluted plot it a phenomenally satisfying way. None of that to be found here, unfortunately. It’s worth a watch to support Shudder if nothing else, but the movie isn’t one you’re going to want to see more than once, I fear. It’ll be streaming on May 19th on their platform.