Come for the blood, stay for the sinister humor in “Consecration.”

Consecration is following in the footsteps of Watcher, Resurrection, and Skinamarink with IFC Films’s and Shudder’s distribution partnership, putting indie horror that would usually not get a chance for theatrical distribution out to the masses. Particularly with Skinamarink’s recent success in wide release, this is a new partnership (which makes total sense seeing as they’re both owned wholly by AMC Networks) that, even if they release a film everyone hates, has people still talking about indie horror when they normally would not, and that is a net win out of the gate. Though, it helps that with some really killer standouts so far this partnership sweetens the already lovely pot of being able to just stroll into my local AMC Theaters (Nicole Kidman says they make movies better. I say that they always start movies 10 minutes late and constantly have broken projectors, but I guess heartbreak really does feel good in a place like this.) and watch indie horror on the big screen. I do not take that for granted (even if I did watch this on a screener).

CONSECRATION - Still 4 - Courtesy IFC Midnight

Danny Huston as Father Romero in Christopher Smith’s CONSECRATION. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

There are three things in this world I can count on: British horror, religious trauma, and Jena Malone (Donnie Darko). At any point of my life, I can almost always predict that I will be shielded from all forms of pain and suffering by at least one of these things. So imagine my surprise when I see IFC Films drop, seemingly out of the blue, a British horror film about religious trauma starring Jena Malone (and directed by Christopher Smith). Something that really seemed truly tailor-made for my interests has been made, but does it actually follow through on its seemingly insurmountable promise on paper?

CONSECRATION - Still 5 - Courtesy of IFC Midnight

Right: Danny Huston as Father Romero in Christopher Smith’s CONSECRATION. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

Grace (Jena Malone) is a fiercely independent optometrist based in London. While she speaks little of her family, she is well-respected amongst her patients and colleagues as an accomplished, level-headed medical provider. She receives a call informing her that her estranged brother, a priest at a conservative convent in Northern Scotland, has killed himself. Disbelieving the story told by the convent, she travels to Scotland to investigate what actually happened to her brother. She very quickly discovers this initially welcoming, if cold, convent has far more secrets within working from the top down, from head priest, Father Romero (Danny Huston), to Mother Superior (Janet Suzman), and all the lowly nuns and postulants. Trapped in an isolated place, Grace must discover the secrets that led to her brother’s death while uncovering her own dark secrets at the same time.

It takes a second for Consecration to really establish what it’s going for here. The film starts off incredibly moody, and, while it remains that way throughout the entire ordeal, there is a bit of whiplash as the story unfolds where I realized that director Christopher Smith (Severance, Triangle, Black Death) was having a lot more goofy fun with this than I was expecting. There are initial moments where I found myself saying “Wow…they’re really doing a lot here,” and found myself losing sight of the initially serious, moody tone. Like most films that balance the serious and the surreal, the sooner you know what you’re in for, and the sooner you submit to just letting the film take you wherever it wants to go, the more there is to be had. Once you realize that, unlike the trailer’s suggestion that this is merely a quiet British indie about the horrors of religious trauma, and more along the lines of nun Carrie with a little bit of Smith’s own Triangle sprinkled in, it’s (pardon the pun) a goddamned hoot.

There aren’t many American actresses who can effectively pull off an English accent well, but seeing as one of my best friends learned from me recently that Jena Malone is in fact American, and not English, as she assumed she was based on her performance in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, I’d say that that’s a good indication of a solid accent. Malone really does command the screen here, and, by the film’s final act, is having 10 tons of fun as the cold, but capable Grace. She operates as the straight man in an increasingly volatile situation, and is also paired perfectly with the not so straight Danny Huston (Children of Men), who is chewing scenery, dropping one-liners, and just being his naturally sinister, mischievous self that, again, once you know what you’re getting, is riotously fun.

CONSECRATION - Still 3 - Courtesy of IFC Midnight

Jena Malone as Grace in Christopher Smith’s CONSECRATION. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

There are points where I did find Consecration to be slightly overextending its hand in how much they would be able to pull off with its small budget with some noticeably poor instances of CGI that stick out pretty intensely (the scene of the nun falling from the cliff in the trailer is one in particular). Still, when the film focuses on the bloody, intimate practical effects, the results are far more effective. Luckily, particularly in its final act, this is far more prevalent, and really shows off Smith’s rather winking directorial style that I love when utilized correctly.

Consecration is also made successful by an incredibly moody and atmospheric score from Nathan Halpern, who also did the wonderful score to IFC/Shudder’s Watcher. This is a sweeping, haunting score that adds a layer of serious dread to the entire affair, even in its more raucous moments of self-indulgence. He is a composer to really look out for.

CONSECRATION - Still 1 - Courtesy of IFC Midnight

Jena Malone as Grace in Christopher Smith’s CONSECRATION. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

It’s hard for me to sit and describe how Consecration isn’t a scary film by any means, but still manages to scratch that itch of “good old fashioned horror” that makes it such an entertaining, memorable watch. Smith imbues the film with a sometimes cheesy air to it, but never one that takes away from any genuinely impressive direction. It’s helped by a healthy scoop of atmosphere and some very game performances from Malone and Huston. This is a film that, while not perfect, understands itself and is absolutely never not completely entertaining.

2023 is already setting itself to be a good damn year for horror.

In theaters February 10th, 2023.

For more information, head to IFC Films’s Consecration webpage.

Final Score: 4 out of 5.


Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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