The eternal battle between good and evil, God and Satan……this has been the backdrop to countless films, novels, poems, nursery rhymes and society in general since our inception. It’s a substantial theme, and one that director Christopher Smith tackles head-on in his latest film Consecration, due to hit theaters on Friday February 10th. Overall it’s a solid, if uneven, effort.
Smith (Severance, Black Death) has an impressive cast to work with and gets the most out of them. After learning of her brother’s death, which is initially classified as a murder-suicide, ophthalmologist Grace (Jena Malone, with an increasingly believable English accent) travels to a convent in Scotland where the crime occurred. Unsatisfied with the police classification and running into both strong resistance and suspicious cooperation from the nuns and head priest, Grace continues her own investigation while the police offer little help. What she continually unravels are clues to not only her brother’s fate but also her own history and inner struggles, which unknowingly plague those around her since her childhood. Double entendre is the best description, as the title suggests……the convent is to be consecrated for the good of the church due to recent events, but at the same time Grace must face her own consecration before it is too late.
Consecration is filled with amazingly stunning views of the Scottish hillsides and green, lush landscapes. This is needed, as the film rarely breaks from the dreadful, dreary tone that its subject matter demands. The heavy dialogue is commanded well by Malone (Donnie Darko), head priest Father Romero (Danny Huston – 30 Days of Night, American Horror Story), and Dame Janet Suzman as Mother Superior. Though there are few scenes where all three are together on screen, each makes wonderful use of their interactions separately. How Romero speaks with Grace differs greatly with his interactions with Mother Superior, and vice versa. The three have separate agendas, though they are intertwined much more than they know and the results are more than they are prepared for. The haunting visions of gliding nuns and dream imagery of reanimated corpses provide plenty of jolts to the audience, and reminded me of the great jump-scares littered throughout the underrated Exorcist III.
I did find that near-constant use of flashbacks and dream imagery, including way backwards in time, a little much during the film’s first act. When I mentioned that events are at times uneven, this is what I’m referencing. Flashbacks of Grace’s childhood and revelations as to who she truly is seem rushed and a bit disorganized. The childhood memories could perhaps be more effective at the beginning of the film in their entirety, rather than intertwined with separate historical events and flashbacks of religious incidents that tend to feel out-of-place in certain spots. Smith utilizes many voyeuristic shots from the shadows which provide valuable information, all from a first-person point of view, but also impressive gliding shots of characters walking or conversing. However, flashbacks are never first-person, making it unclear if they are memories or glimpses of the past for the audience only. Is this enough to derail the plot? No, but it does seem occasionally choppy as the story builds to the bloody crescendo.
Anyway…..I’m being picky. This cast is wonderful, the settings are beautiful and the story takes an archetypical horror subject and allows it to play out in a satisfactory manner. Credit to screenwriters Smith and co-writer Laurie Cook for that. I can confidently say that I’m not sure if the Prayer to St. Michael will have the same meaning to me after how the climactic events go down in Consecration. And a quote uttered by Mother Superior proves to be prophetic throughout……”There is but one God. And His shadow.” In this film, who we root for and who we root against at the beginning flip-flop with near completion by the end. That type of emotion pulled from the audience is the ultimate goal in any horror suspense movie, after all.
Consecration will begin a theatrical run on Friday, February 10th, before eventually finding a streaming home on IFC Midnight and Shudder.