Nails certainly has a grabby premise. It’s one bound to catch the eye of more than a few horror fans aimlessly scrolling through their streaming options, even those left jaded by the seemingly ceaseless onslaught of ghostly horrors. A co-production of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Nails puts a paraplegic (Shauna Macdonald), in the very early days of her recovery from a devastating accident, In this rundown treatment center she encounters a dangerous supernatural entity revealing the building's dark past. Part of the premise’s appeal is seeing whether the filmmakers are up to the “sink or swim” task they’ve presented themselves: to create and, more importantly, to sustain intrigue with limited settings and a lead who is at the mercy of the world around her. It’s worked before – the excellent Misery comes to mind – but that’s a bar Nails never comes close to reaching.
No fault belongs to Macdonald (The Descent), who gives a commendable performance as Dana, a former athlete struggling to come to terms with the change her life has taken. The issue is Nails, the name given to the gaunt, excessively spindly entity that has set its sight on her. Once Nails decides Dana needs to go, which happens fairly early, there’s no reason for him not to strike … outside of the fact that the filmmakers have a feature runtime to achieve. We get ample nighttime, stare-heavy visits from Nails, the now-standard Paranormal Activity camera-deployment sequence, and a Nail’s origin mystery that elicits about as much suspense as a straight, flat country road. The most shocking part is how quickly Dana’s scumbag husband (Steve Wall) begins cheating on her – and how forthright he is about it. All of this drags on and on until the filmmakers inexplicably decide it’s time for their movie to end and let Nails start killing everyone and everything in the badly understaffed treatment center so that he can get to Dana.
Nails as told by Dennis Bartok (director/co-writer) and Tom Abrams (co-writer) is a short film stretched to the ghastly proportions of its central villain. Without a reason for keeping our heroine alive and with no real story to tell in the meantime, the movie feels like it’s at a corner, running in place while waiting for a light to turn green. When that happens, the narrative barrels forward to a haphazard conclusion, doing no favors to its leading lady and its strong initial premise.