Upon the arrival of a huge storm, the father of a family is also arriving by plane in Kansas City and his family are to pick him up. His newly-sober wife and their three daughters get stuck on the side of the road and decide to hide from the storm in a nearby basement only to discover the storm also brought out something else. And they are in the middle of their home.
Because our friend James DePaolo gave this a great review at WickedChannel.com I decided to check it out as well, in hopes to find the new piece of excellence in cinema. I should start by saying that I don't know the budget for this, or if this is truly a indepedent effort or not (some companies should be called independent companies, and some shouldn't - where Ministry Machine Productions & SenoReality Pictures are on that scale I don't know). However, it's rare for us to receive screener copies of such professional and well-made movies as this one. There is nothing seperating this from the films we see in mainstream theaters in terms of production quality and that's a joy to see.
The movie starts very subtle with no hints as to what to expect, other than the storm coming. Basically we are following a family of a mother and her three daughters before their father comes back from the military. The mother is a sober alcoholic and the daughters are in their rebellious years. They leave for Kansas City to meet the father when his plane arrives but are also aware of the big storm that is coming. And while on the road they see a huge tornado following them so they end up by the side of the road, running for shelter. They stumble upon a house where no one seems to be home and end up breaking in to the basement to hide from the storm. The problem is that the storm tears down a tree that falls down on the door to the basement, locking them in. When they finally come up with the idea of the youngest daughter climbing out of a window, to open the door from the outside, something attacks her arm. The family panics before they get time to figure out exactly what it was that bit her. Without spoiling too much, the people living in the house has a dark secret. Of monstrous proportions!
The movie starts out extremely intense with the storm approaching, and I must say the scene where they run for shelter is extremely well-made, and was actually one of few scenes to get my heart pumping in a film we got sent to us. Around this time in the film I still have no idea what the actual movie is gonna be about as I didn't look into it at all before watching it. And while I think "Nailbiter" does take a few safe turns, some predictable and typical turns for this kind of film, I still felt it was a fresh enough attempt because it's more careful in its execution. Yes, we have stuff like that police character arriving where we hope for help but it, simply put, goes to hell. But this is the only apparent flaw in "Nailbiter" - while it does hurt the movie, it never ruins it from being a solid horror story.
What I really liked about the movie was that the characters were all equally important. We didn't have the jock, the blonde, the nerd, or any of that. We had a family of a mother and three daughters where each daughter is different and has a personality of their own. Because of this we never know who will survive (and what will be left of them, hah), which of course makes the journey a lot more enjoyable and interesting. Add to that we also get a decent run-down of their past and their problems before they are sent out to fight for their lives. Sometimes it doesn't help a movie, but I definitely felt for the mother of this family a lot more because they did this, for something as simple as her being a sober alcoholic and finding it being a struggle.
The movie has a solid build up, and even when it takes a few predictable and typical routes it still entertained me up until the end. I think the climax scene is very creepy and which they would've ran with it a bit longer. I do feel that the movie ended a bit too soon and never really gave us the finale we felt we deserved after what we've been through. But the very last seconds were very interesting, definitely leaving room for a sequel (or something for our imaginations) as it finally introduces the father character for the first time.
As you might expect by now, and it's impossible for me to not comment on it, there are monsters in the movie. At first I thought they were gonna be the typical "The Descent"-ish kind but it turns out they were way more horrific than that. They are actual beasts that land somewhere between Gollum ("The Descent") and werewolves. I also like that they were very killable - they never get close to invincibility. That seems to be a very common mistake in a lot of films. They also leave a lot of the monsters to our imagination but what we see looks very pretty good, and while the movie definitely lacks in gore what we get there still reaches high quality.
"Nailbiter" might be the most professionally and well-produced film I have received this year and it's a good horror to boot. It falls into a few holes that I have seen mainstream horror fall into a lot and that does hurt the movie a bit, but it never makes it a bad movie. It has some very intense scenes and towards the end it actually gets pretty creepy. I just wish they would've went a bit further with it before ending it but you can't have it all! It's better to end it where they did than to give us too much. "Nailbiter" has a title that hints towards you biting your nails in fear before it's over, and this is a film where I can see that happening, actually. It is a very solid horror movie that I think will either get lost among all the horror we get these days, simply because there are so many, or it will find the audience that it rightfully deserves.