“Consecration,” a new horror film from the director Christopher Smith, begins with a cryptic declaration from its protagonist, Grace (Jena Malone): “My brother used to believe I had a guardian angel. And I used to believe in nothing. Now, I’m not so sure.” During this voice-over, an older nun saunters over and points a gun at the camera, which is to say, at Grace’s face.
The film eventually gets to what prompts this toothlessly jarring shot, but the payoff isn’t particularly satisfying. Grace, an eye doctor, travels to the seaside convent where her brother, a priest, died. Her brother, a suspect in the murder of a fellow priest, is believed to have taken his own life, but Grace has her doubts. Suspicious of the nuns, stern traditionalists led by a dour mother superior, Grace begins looking for evidence of foul play. While she searches, she’s haunted by apparitions and visions of death, and the film often flashes back to her grim childhood in which the religious and the darkly supernatural were entwined.
Yet the mythos of Grace’s past isn’t filled in thoughtfully or interestingly enough to buoy the present story’s mysteries and twists. The plot, as a result, can’t quite find its momentum; it doesn’t help that most of the film’s scares fall flat on a visual and technical level. Malone does what she can to keep it all afloat, and Danny Huston lends a bit of gravitas as Father Romero, a visiting priest who may or may not be there to help Grace. Either way, it’s not much of a thrill to find out.
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