Nails follows an athletic trainer (Shauna Macdonald) who, upon suffering a near-fatal hit-and-run while on a jog, is placed in a hospital bed with barely any motor skills or bodily functions. As she works hard to rehabilitate herself, she is visited by a seemingly malevolent force during the night. As the entity gets closer to her with every passing night, she must find a way out of the hospital before it's too late.
Shauna Macdonald has built quite a career out of low-budget horror movies, building a reasonable reputation for being Scotland's scream queen. Known mostly for her starring role in The Descent, she also had roles in The Mutant Chronicles, Howl, Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Hike and The Descent Part 2. That's quite the list. And now we can add Nails to the list. So how does Nails compare to her filmography? Somewhere in the middle.
Nails has some unique qualities that are wrapped in traditional horror garbs. For most of the first hour, we experience the customary haunting storytelling with glimpses of a paranormal evil as it becomes more and more apparent as our characters become increasingly more aware of it. It's ordinary and predictable for most of the runtime.
Thankfully, Nails does a better job with its limited moments intent on delivering legitimate scares. They're not as intense or well directed as The Conjuring, but they're not run-of-the-mill scares either. The antagonist design isn't particularly unique, but the slight touches here and there gave it the extra differentiating qualities it needed to stand out and make an impact.
I have a beef with the traditional haunted house model. The nature of a haunted house having to progress in its interaction with its victims can be reasonably explained away that it requires the regular fear and life force of a visiting family to bring out its corporeal manipulations with a gradual growth. Yet, this assumed explanation feels trite and lazy time after time. This film embraces this assumption, never giving a reasonable explanation for the antagonist's haunting progression or motif. Too much is left to the imagination to the point that it feels dismissed and poorly conceived.
That isn't to say there isn't a twist or acknowledgment of the dark force's past. We get some of that. But it's not enough to explain away a final act's worth of plot holes that dilute the climax. There are moments of promise sprinkled throughout the film, but it's surrounded by standardized storytelling that strangles the impact of those moments.
Macdonald does a great job and her supporting cast is solid all the way around. It's never a weakness of the film, though they suffer through the oft-bland dialogue and story progression. In the end, I wanted more, but I was fairly impressed enough times at the horror elements of the film that it wasn't bad enough that it could be tossed into the pile of weak indies of recent reviews. This movie is visibly better and it's worth noting that. Unfortunately, it missed the opportunity to be special as it was unable to break a few more tropes.