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'Consecration' review: Tepid demonic thriller could use some spirit

Courtesy of IFC Films


Faith based thrillers centered around possession is nothing unordinary, but the latest entry into this beleaguered brand “Consecration,” can’t decide what it wants to be: investigative drama? Moody character study? Dissection of the irregularities within the Catholic Church? Midway through British writer and director Christopher Smith’s film, I started to wonder where things were headed. Surely the filmmakers didn’t enlist the talents of Jena Malone and Danny Huston to be in a movie that engages with these ideas and then does absolutely nothing with them. Or did they? 

The mystery starts promisingly as we follow Grace (Malone) an optometrist and atheist with a complicated relationship to the church, who receives news that her brother has committed suicide. Knowing he would never do such an act, she heads to the convent in the Scotland countryside, where the incident took place, for answers. The convent is known for its controversial practices, and the lead investigator on the case (Thoren Ferguson) tags along for moral support. On the journey, Smith acclimates us to the gloomy gray skies and depressing aurora that surrounds this shady convent. Stories about nuns cutting out their eyes and jumping off cliffs are old folktales that give it a questionable reputation. 

But “Consecration” isn’t interested in exploring beyond the bare minimum required to deliver a coherent narrative. Which means we get a hollow backstory around Grace’s childhood trauma (a flashback sequence about her father yields some starling, gorey imagery, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before); nor does it survey the dynamics between the nuns, who muttered weird phrases under their breaths, and a recently appointed priest that’s played with vigor by Huston. The minimal breadcrumbs provided offer sustenance to at least keep us interested in where the mystery is headed, which of course involves the shady convent doing, well, shady things, but the payoff is extremely underwhelming and laughable. 

The gothic visuals and brief altercations between Huston and Malone keep “Consecration” afloat, but Smith’s assertions only add up to another tedious and routine exercise. There’s even a knock-off reference to other, better, films like the mirror sequence in “Contact” which solidifies the film's overall sense of tomfoolery. Alas, demonic themed horror films probably aren’t going anywhere (yet) but between this and the awful “Prey for the Devil,” you have to wonder what’s next for this monotonous sub-genre that’s forgotten how to scare people. 

Grade: D+ 

CONSECRATION opens in theaters Friday, February 10th. 


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