Jena Malone has been in some of my favorite films of all time, including mind-bending sci-fi thriller Donnie Darko, and body horror masterpiece The Ruins. Seeing her name listed on a title is always enough to get me excited regardless of the genre. Unfortunately, co-writer/director Christopher Smith’s Consecration is the rare dud in Malone’s filmography. The script from Smith and Laurie Cook feels half-baked and filled with cliches one can spot coming from a mile away. On the plus side, Consecration isn’t quite as abysmal as similar religious-horror The Nun, but I am not certain that is much of a compliment, either.
Grace (Malone) lives alone in a quiet apartment with her adorable cat Mr. Moo, struggling to maintain a fleeting happiness in between her daily job as an ophthalmologist’s assistant. Grace suddenly loses power in her apartment one night, during which the audience glimpses a creepy nun in the foreground before Grace receives a phone call. Her brother, Michael (Steffan Cennydd), has been found dead in a potential murder/suicide situation at a remote convent in Scotland. The initial setup shows shades of promise, especially in the nuance to Malone’s performance as Grace. Though we have already checked off an obvious horror trope—the power going out and playing host to a creepy moment—I was not entirely tuned out yet.
When she arrives in Scotland, Grace is greeted by DCI Harris (Thoren Ferguson), in charge of investigating Michael’s alleged suicide. Before long, Grace is introduced to the “extreme sect” of religious nutjobs that Michael associated with before his untimely death. Mother Superior (Janet Suzman) seems welcoming enough, though it is obvious she is hiding her true intentions. The woman insists that Michael was possessed by a demon and then killed Father Caro before offing himself as a means to contain the evil. Grace, an avid nonbeliever, knows something seems off about Mother Superior’s recollection of the events. A priest from the Vatican (Danny Huston) is sent to monitor the goings-on. Michael’s body is said to have been found on the beach, yet at the morgue, there is no sand on him at all. A mysterious secret tied to Grace’s past could be the key to unlocking the truth. What really happened to Michael, and why is an alleged “ancient relic” so sought after amongst the community of religious zealots?
While the heart of the script is in the right place, Consecration does absolutely nothing to stand out from the crowd. We have seen this exact type of movie before, and executed better tenfold. Extremely poor CGI does the movie no favors, and comes off laughable in a scene that is clearly meant to be chilling. Another unintentionally hilarious moment with a whole over-explaining flashback while in mid-death-drop left me rolling my eyes. A Shudder exclusive, I have no doubt that Consecration will probably turn a few heads when it debuts to the streamer in early February. Jena Malone has a definite draw, basking in indie sensibilities whilst thriving in studio settings, as with her notable role as Johanna Mason in the Hunger Games franchise. I would highly recommend another Malone movie coming the same month to video on demand over this one—Swallowed is queer horror done right, and carries disturbing imagery that both haunts and titillates. On the other hand, Consecration will likely be forgotten just as quickly as a prayer uttered from a non-believer. Everything about the film feels hollow and misguided, down to a not-at-all surprising twist one can see coming from a mile away.
Say a prayer for Consecration when it heads to limited release theaters on Friday, February 10th.