Horror director Christopher Smith‘s (Creep, Triangle, Black Death) latest offering is a character-centric religious mystery focussing on Grace (American star Jena Malone), a woman who finds out her priest brother apparently killed himself. She travels from England to the Mount Saviour Convent in Scotland to investigate his death and begins unravelling eerie secrets amongst the strange nuns who live there.
Influences from Black Narcissus to The Wicker Man and, more recently, Midsommar are apparent as the film focuses on religious fundamentalism, the supernatural, and the protagonist’s psychological isolation. Grace’s occupation as an optician provides early thematic indications that she is gifted with a clairvoyant-like ability to ‘see things that others can’t’, and her visions provide plenty of unsettling moments.
Childhood flashbacks provide some interesting backstory to give Grace and the story further layers and Malone is a captivating central performer, even if her English accent is giving Sliding Doors Gwyneth Paltrow (Smith explains in a FrightFest Q&A that Malone was cast when the film was originally supposed to be set in Salem).
Janet Suzman as Mother Superior and Danny Huston as Father Romero provide impressive support (even if Huston is a little typecast in his villainous role) and the solemn atmosphere created by the stunning remote locations (filmed mainly on Skye) help bolster the storyline, confusing at times though it may be. Although we have to suspend our disbelief in a genre film like this, the prestige does seem to take some licence with logic that’s tricky to get to grips with.
Ultimately, Consecration is a fairly engaging psychological character study that provides enough paranormal happenings to just about satisfy a horror audience. However, at points it does merely glide along and some elements – the death of Grace’s brother, the lore of the convent – feel underdeveloped.
Screened as part of Glasgow FrightFest 2023