Synopsis: After the alleged suicide of her priest brother, Grace travels to the remote Scottish convent where he fell to his death. Distrusting the Church’s account, she uncovers murder, sacrilege, and a disturbing truth about herself.
Stars: Jena Malone, Danny Huston, Dame Janet Suzman, Thoren Ferguson
Director: Christopher Smith
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: Religion and horror always seem to make good bedfellows, preying on the fear many viewers have of the church and its servants. I’ve always been a little wary of the movies that feature priests or nuns so prominently as figures either of good battling evil or the representation of evil itself, something that needs to be exorcised by an outside force. In recent years, there have been interesting attempts through horror to make more sophisticated scares through films like Agnes and, most successfully, Saint Maud. Still, I find myself wincing anytime I see marketing materials featuring a blood-stained habit.
The latest holy terror outing is Consecration, and what attracted me to this one is its trio of stars who don’t often attach themselves to run-of-the-mill dreck. If anything, they seek projects that tip the scales toward challenging work rather than easy-to-digest consumer-grade nonsense. If they dipped their toe in this potential lake of fire, it must have been for a good reason. So…back into the church pew I went.
London ophthalmologist Grace (Jena Malone, The Neon Demon) is shocked to hear of the death of her estranged brother, a priest. Though they had recently lost touch, they shared a bond forged through their hard upbringing. The formal report of his death is that he committed suicide by jumping off a cliff by sacred ruins near a convent in Scotland, but Grace knows deep down he would never have engaged in such an unpardonable sin. Traveling to Scotland, she meets with the local detective assigned to the case (Thoren Ferguson) and requests to visit the convent where her brother lept to his death.
Viewing her brother’s badly beaten body only confirms something amiss with the death, and a cool stonewall from the Mother Superior (Janet Suzman, Nuns on the Run) at the convent only drives Grace’s need to know more. There’s something else, too. Since she arrived, Grace has been overcome with visions from her past and hallucinations she can’t decipher. Unable to turn to the presiding Father (Danny Huston, Angel Has Fallen) or the suspicious Sisters who seem to be keeping a dark secret, Grace will confront her past to unlock the mystery.
There’s a good movie milling about somewhere in the bones of Consecration; I wish it weren’t covered up by so much extraneous and clunky material. Grace’s reason for hanging around the convent (and dressing like a nun) is a screenwriting device that makes little sense and is quickly ignored because it has nothing to do with furthering the story. And yet it does play a part in our going along with why a headstrong woman like Grace would allow herself to be subjected to highly questionable treatment. Malone is too intelligent an actress to play a character that dumbs herself down quite quickly. It’s perplexing.
Speaking of Malone, she remains a real force in any film she’s a part of, and as weak as Consecration gets at times, she remains a strong pillar throughout. The end game of the piece (co-scripted by director Christopher Smith) is a bit murky when all is said and done, but it manages to untangle most of its knots before the credits roll. Even if it relies on one of the cheapest gags in the book for a “gotcha” finale, it can’t be said the Consecration hasn’t tried up until this point to rise above the usual fire and brimstone seediness of less crafty films in its genre category.