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Home | Film Review: Nailbiter (2012)

Film Review: Nailbiter (2012)


The Maguire family is forced to take sudden refuge in a seemingly abandoned country home from of forthcoming tornado en route to a Kansas City airport. Their plans to pick up husband and father are quickly thwarted as the girls are held captive in the confines of the cellar by an unknown force. Will family unity prevail demonstrating blood is thicker than water? Or will the interpersonal infrastructure between the siblings and mother crumble apart at the seams succumbing to the darkness around them?


Directed By: Patrick Rea
Starring: Erin McGrane, Meg Saricks, Sally Spurgeon, Emily Boresow, Joicie Appell, Mark Ridgway

Nailbiter is a double entendre that is refreshing, enjoyable and innovative to an over indulgent genre that has grown tiresome in many commercial circles. Essentially Rea’s picture is of Lichen nature and it’s encouraging to see a bark at the moon tale delivered with artistic creativity and integrity. Thankfully the woes of sparkling, glittering teen vampire and werewolf tales are a ghost of a bad memory when referencing this tale. I was a little on the reluctant side at first with the opening sequences of Jennifer Maguire (Meg Saricks) up to no good, smoking and parking with another rebellion fuelled teen. I thought we had to anticipate yet another teen friendly regurgitation of the same old formula. Rest assured chiller fans, Nailbiter is spooky rendition with a different perspective that’ll ultimately render you impressed if not compelled.

The cinematography is in tradition of high definition standards we take for granted today. Most of the scenes are crisp, clear and esthetically pleasing. True artistry presents itself in the form of brief cuts and pans to the lurking creatures outside of the country home. The techniques allude to something diabolical, unworldly and sinister, while at the same time not really showing a whole lot to overwhelm the senses. This type of film making seems to be making a come back and I find it damned encouraging. The desired effect is achieved far more by seducing the darkness of our subconscious rather than clubbing us over the head with visual nonsense.

Some character development is highlighted among the Maguire sisters and the relationship with their mother. Through some techniques of close up shots to bottles of alcohol and angles of mother Maguire’s conflicted expression we realize she has a dependency to booze and it reinforces the imperfections of the character. We pity her essentially and in some cases can even relate to own dysfunctional crosses to bear.

The majority of the shoot takes place in the farmhouse cellar. Cleaver balance of shadow and hues emphasizes a claustrophobic sense of impending doom. One cannot deny their pulse racing when escape seems right around the corner. The props department did a bang up job of furnishing the basement with all the dusty, musty remnants of storage one would anticipate reinforcing a more believable environment.

Perhaps most impressive is the professional quality of the special effects and make up team in Nailbiter. Although some CGI is utilized, its subtlety is so refined the only stand out moment is when the actual twister can be seen rapidly approaching the farm house. It doesn’t deter from dramatic intent whatsoever. In fact the opposite is achieved as a sense of surrealism and suspended belief is held in the air as the disaster is mere seconds away from the panic stricken Maguire girls.

The creatures or werewolves if you prefer are grisly enough to make even the most cynical of horror fans jolt with unease. Watch for some gruesome death scenes that guaranteed will make your skin crawl. There’s not an excess of blood either with is kudos once again to Patrick Rea for unleashing roller coaster ride of terror without all the gore folklore that is gratuitous and often unnecessary.

Sound effects had to be used diligently through this labor of love. Certain techniques have to compensate when seducing the subconscious into fear without showing a whole lot of first. They’re teasers in a sense and as the music rises and we cringe in anticipation of circumstance for our protagonists before us it’s only natural to hear some ravenous, ominous evil in the air and Naibiter howls these sounds with subliminal ease.

An independent gem definitely worth checking out, you’re in store for a real treat when it comes to an old genre resurrected with a brand new twist.

Three out of five tombstones.

Nailbiter (2012)


  1. Excellent writeup, Mr. Gammon! I will have to try to find THIS one on Netflix. Thanks for the word, brother …

  2. The Black Saint

    Just saw this at the NYC Horror Film Festival & loved it! I thought it was brisk & scary with some good performances to boot. A real sleeper that should be seen as soon as it gets some kind of conventional release.


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