Religious horror is one of my favorite sub-genres, but it’s been a while since a film in this category stuck in my mind. If I’m being honest, everything since Saint Maud has been a bit of a letdown. But along comes Christopher Smith’s Consecration, reviving my interest in the horrors of religion. While I didn’t find this film to be quite on par with my other mention, it still left a profound impact.
Consecration follows the aptly-named Grace (Jena Malone), who receives news that her brother was a victim in a murder-suicide. She travels to a remote convent in Scotland where he served, feeling that something isn’t quite right from the moment of her arrival. As Grace seeks to uncover the truth behind her brother’s death, some shocking revelations arise. What she discovers ties to her traumatic past, her present, and the future.
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I’ll leave further details out for fear of spoilers, and begin with the bits that brought my rating down. First, I’m all for a slow burn, but it needs to have enough tension to carry my interest, and the payoff has to be worth the time. This film is a slow burn, and for the first half or so, not much happens. While I’m not a fan of too many jump-scares, this effort could benefit from something of that ilk. The action is confined mostly to the second half and I think this might lead some viewers to give up before they reach the best part of the picture.
The film relies on several flashbacks to Grace’s childhood. While I typically don’t mind a story that skips back and forth, something about the setup felt off. It would’ve been more effective to include one long flashback at either the beginning or middle, rather than multiple scenes. The way it’s presented is too fragmented.
As for what works, Consecration is effective due to its strong imagery, acting, and atmosphere. The rich visuals struck my interest in the trailer, and the film itself was packed full of aesthetically pleasing moments. From the early landscape shots to the colors and imagery within the convent, this one ranks high. Certain scenes stand out in my mind due to the vivid colors and the excellent cinematography overall.
I can’t say Jena Malone has ever disappointed me as a performer. She’s been in a lot of memorable roles, and brings a lot to the Grace character. Also, you can’t go wrong with the addition of Danny Huston as a priest that gives off the wrong vibes. It’s hard for me to see him on screen and not flashback to his role in 30 Days of Night, as one of the creepiest vampires ever. Since that film I always get a kick out of seeing him in horror fare.
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Speaking of horror, this film is a little light on it. Not only due to the slow buildup of action, but there aren’t a lot of truly scary scenes. This might disappoint viewers who are hoping for a more intense film. It’s more of a thoughtful, psychological horror within the context of the church. Good and evil come into play, but they aren’t right in your face. That’s certainly not a criticism, just fair warning.
Another aspect I find appealing is the female-centric story, as represented by the lead and the multitude of nuns running the convent. In many religious horror films, there’s a male protagonist who saves the female in some way. There’s nothing wrong with this setup but it’s kind of overdone. Consecration offers a fresh look at horror within the Catholic church that doesn’t involve obvious demonic possession.
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Consecration is a worthwhile film depicting quiet horror in the realm of religion. I appreciate a fresh take on a trope that can easily be overdone. While I think this will garner mixed reviews, I know there are many who will appreciate the story and the style.
Consecration is now showing exclusively in theaters.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
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