The Horror Zine Review
A Film by Patrick Rea
and SenoReality Pictures
|Director: Patrick Rea
Actors: Erin McGrane, Meg Saricks, Emily Boresow
Studio: SenoReality Pictures and Ministry Machine
Release Date: 2012
Run Time: 82 minutes
A Film by Patrick Rea
Review by C. Dennis Moore
Sometimes things just fall into your lap. I was minding my own business one day a few weeks ago, reading the new issue of Fangoria when I came across an article at the back about this production company SenoReality Pictures, working out of Kansas City and the surrounding area. Hey, I live in St. Joseph, that’s in the surrounding area.
The article was about producing movies in the area on a limited budget and some of the roadblocks they’ve faced in putting together their first feature-length movie, NAILBITER. The movie itself sounded interesting, so I went to the company’s website and mentioned how I do reviews and how I saw them in Fango and would they be interested in a review of their movie? And I’m glad I spent the $10 on Fangoria, glad I read magazines all the way through, and glad I took that chance and asked about a review copy, because I just finished NAILBITER and it was pretty awesome.
Janet Maguire (Eric McGrane) and her daughters, Jennifer (Meg Saricks), Sally (Sally Spurgeon) and Alice (Emily Boresow) are packing up and heading to KC to pick up Janet’s husband who is returning home from the military. However, to get to KC they have to drive through Wellsville, which is in the path of the biggest storm cell in years. The storm forces the family off the road and they run to the first place they find, a house just off the highway.
No one answers the door, but a tornado is getting closer, so Janet breaks the lock on the cellar door and the girls take refuge in there until it passes. But once the tornado passes, they discover a tree has fallen over the doors and they can’t get out. Janet bangs on the ceiling, the floor of the living room, trying to get the attention of anyone who may be home. At first there’s nothing, then they hear footsteps and an answering bang. But no voices, no one comes to help…nothing.
Huh? Jennifer tries to call 911, but the storm has disrupted the signal and she can’t get through. Meanwhile, Sally thinks she can squeeze out through the window. She gets halfway, but something outside attacks her, biting her arm, and she falls back into the cellar where Janet wraps the wound in burlap and rope—the only things handy. Then the door and windows are boarded over, despite the Maguire girls’ protests. Whoever lives here isn’t interested in helping.
This was an excellent premise, I thought. Certainly a different take on a familiar theme. In fact, if this had been the extent of it, I’d have been happy just watching their fight for survival against the antisocial homeowner.
But Kendel Sinn and Patrick Rea (writer and director respectively) aren’t satisfied to let things simmer at this level. This is the Midwest, yo, this is how we do things, we always taking it to the next level. You feel me?
NAILBITER ups the tension. There’s something about the storm, about storms in general, that affect the homeowners (the Shurmans) in a very strange way. Hey, I’m not saying I get the sense of just how the physics of this story work, but I dug it.
Somehow storms bring out the monsters in the Shurman men, literally. Most of them are shut away upstairs in the house, but one of them decides to hide out from the storm down in the cellar…where the Maguire girls are trapped.
So you see the dilemma.
NAILBITER lives up to its name by keeping the viewer guessing. With the situation Janet and her girls find themselves in, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. Even though this feels like a familiar scenario, Rea and company work in enough unexpected twists that eventually you just stop trying to guess what’s next and you sit back and enjoy the show.
The quality of this low budget flick is excellent. You’d never guess that SenoReality wasn’t a big budget money machine, and that’s one thing this local outfit has in spades over another local horror film maker who will remain nameless but you know who I mean anyway.
NAILBITER is not a perfect film. I think the script was a bit sketchy at times, and there are instances where this really affects the pace and the acting, like when Janet felt the need to keep repeating how they were going to KCI to get her husband who was returning from the military. The first time sure, that was for the viewers’ benefit, but then to tell it to the cop at the gas station—he needed to know that? No, it added nothing to the story, nor to his understanding of their situation.
I also hate the use of a nail gun as an actual weapon, but at least they had the sense enough to know that these are not magic and a pneumatic nail gun has to be connected to some kind of air tank. So they get kudos for that.
But overall, this is a really good film. Sinn crafted some very specific and well-defined characters, especially in Jennifer. Meg Saricks plays the sarcastic down-on-life teenager to a T. Alice and Sally, also, have their own specific characteristics and mannerisms, which makes them easier to relate to and feel for when things start to go really bad. I sympathized with Janet and found myself trying to figure out what I would do in a similar situation with my kids, and that too helped me enjoy the movie even more.
Overall, while NAILBITER is not flawless, nothing ruins the good things it’s got going for it. Patrick Rea and SenoReality have made a very good movie. A good HORROR movie? Well… it’s a good suspense movie with horror elements.
It shows that no matter what the genre, what the budget limitations, or what problems are faced during production, this film company is doing something right. I’m very much looking forward to their next movie, and the NAILBITER sequel which, with an ending like that, there HAS to be one.
See the Nailbiter website HERE
About the Filmmaker
Rea’s most recent shorts "Get Off My Porch", "Hell Week", "Time's Up, Eve", “Next Caller”, “Now That You’re Dead”, "Do Not Disturb" and "Mrs. Brumett’s Garden" have garnered acclaim and are currently on the festival circuit. In the summer of 2008, Rea's short film, “Woman’s Intuition” won a Heartland Emmy Award. In 2009, Rea was co-director on the “Jake Johanssen, I Love You” comedy special, which aired on SHOWTIME throughout 2010. This past summer, SenoReality Pictures won its second Heartland Emmy Award with their short "Get Off My Porch".
About the Reviewer
C. Dennis Moore
C. Dennis Moore lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. He’s been writing just about forever with over sixty stories and novellas published, plus a collection of his short stories called Terrible Thrills. Recent publications include the Vile Things anthology from Comet Press and his novella Epoch Winter has been published by Drollerie Press.