Film Review: Consecration

Film Reviews

Director: Christopher Smith

IFC Films/Shudder
Release Date: 02.10

When Grace (Jenna Malone) learns of her priest brother’s suspicious murder-suicide at a remote convent in Scotland, she makes her way there to uncover the truth of what happened. A woman of science who has turned away from God as a result of childhood religious trauma, Grace bristles at the convent full of creepy nuns led by a dubious Mother Superior (Janet Suzman). 

A kind priest, Father Romero (Danny Huston), is sent by the Vatican to fill the gap left by Grace’s brother to contend with the convent known for its reputation for religious zealotry and fringe beliefs. We see flashbacks to the original proprietors of the convent, the “Knights of the Morning Star,” a religious order that guarded an amorphous relic containing terrible supernatural powers. As Grace uncovers the mystery of her brother’s death, she unearths the convent’s horrors—and her own past.

There’s an interesting movie in there somewhere—the setup promises Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The Omen—but the grandiosity of Consecration’s ideas are never given the space they need to flourish cloistered among the nuns in this secluded convent. All of this setup gives way to a psycho-supernatural horror with a twist that is telegraphed early on, diminishing the impact of the film’s back half.

While Grace visits the convent with the detective investigating the mysterious death of her brother, she sees hallucinations of past and current nuns casting themselves off of cliffs and committing acts of self-mutilation in order to supplicate their God and absolve themselves of their sins. These visions are further punctuated by flashbacks to Grace’s traumatic childhood, suffering religious abuses from her adoptive father. When Grace has these visions and hallucinations, she ends up in a fugue state, shortly going unconscious after the episodes.

The sisters—and particularly the Mother Superior—have taken a keen interest in Grace while she recovers in the nunnery. The majority of tension in Consecration comes from a one-eyed nun with a staring problem and a sister who annoyingly insists on appearing behind Grace and shouting “peek-a-boo!”—the film’s weak attempt at a jump scare. For being set within a religious tradition known for its pomp and circumstance, the movie does nothing to play with the gaudiness inherent in the Catholic faith, making it feel visually flat and lifeless.

The always-good Malone is pulling most of the weight in this feature, though despite starring in a film fashioned as Catholic horror, she’s never given the opportunity to flex her acting muscles that have at times made Malone such an intense screen presence over the years (Donnie Darko, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Neon Demon). There is obviously plenty of ammunition to use against the Catholic church when it comes to the real-life atrocities it has committed over the centuries, as well as the trauma some of its adherents inflict, but the movie defangs these horrors with vagaries. It paints with a broad brush to highlight Grace’s childhood trauma and current danger at the hands of this religious order.

Other than a brief homage to 1976’s The Omen and the hilarious imagery of a nun pointing a revolver at someone on a crowded street, Consecration doesn’t contribute much to the religious horror subgenre. Despite some big ideas, it lacks the courage to explore them in any depth and as a result has no teeth. –Brandon Ermer

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