CONSECRATION | ©2023 IFC Midnight/ Shudder

CONSECRATION | ©2023 IFC Midnight/ Shudder

Rating: R
Stars: Jena Malone, Danny Huston, Thoren Ferguson, Will Keen, Eilidh Fisher, Alexandra Lewis, Jolade Obasola, Daisy Allen, Kit Rakusen, Ian Pirie, Steffan Cennydd, Janet Suzman
Writers: Christopher Smith & Laurie Cook
Director: Christopher Smith
Distributor: IFC Films/Shudder
Release Date: February 10, 2023

CONSECRATION gets off to a bracing start. Grace (Jena Malone) informs us in voiceover that her brother used to believe she had a guardian angel, while she believed in nothing. Onscreen, Grace is taking a peaceful walk outside a park when she is confronted by a nun, in full white habit, who points a revolver at her.

Since this is something we don’t see every day, even in movies, our curiosity is piqued. CONSECRATION, directed by Christopher Smith and written by Smith & Laurie Cook, plays fair and square in depicting how this confrontation comes to pass.

Flash back to a little while earlier. Grace is an English optometrist, concerned with her patients’ well-being. She seemingly has few friends apart from an ophthalmologist colleague (Will Keen), but is relatively content.

Then Grace receives a phone call from Detective Harris (Thoren Ferguson). Her brother Michael (Staffan Cennydd), a priest, has died under suspicious circumstances on the premises of Mount Saviour Convent in Scotland. The theory is that Michael murdered Father Carroll, then committed suicide.

Grace doesn’t believe for a moment that Michael killed himself or anyone else, and heads directly to the convent.

As Harris warns, the convent is a place where old traditions hold sway. Grace arrives to find that the Mother Superior (Janet Suzman) and all of the nuns believe that the death of the two priests is the work of a demon.

Mother Superior is also in some sort of conflict with Vatican representative Father Romero (Danny Huston), who is here to supervise the reconsecration of the church here; part of it dropped into the sea when the cliff beneath it fell away in 1995.

At first, since we can see that something supernatural is most definitely happening, we get a little annoyed at Grace for appearing to be one of those horror movie characters who takes forever to get a clue.

In this case, though, appearances are deceiving. The more we learn about Grace’s tragic childhood (Daisy Allen plays young Grace, Kit Rakusen plays young Michael), the more we and she start piecing things together.

The mythology created by Smith & Cook is clever, keeping us guessing right until the final moments exactly which way it will tip. They also lay things out in ways that seldom require on the nose exposition, making it comfortable for us to play detective without getting too far ahead of the story. In addition, they create some lovely character moments, especially between Grace and Meg (Eilidh Fisher), a young nun drawn to the outsider.

Malone invites our empathy, Ferguson is likable, and Huston and Suzman are both formidable.

The scenery and settings also make strong contributions, with a fitting timeless quality.

CONSECRATION is a religious folk horror thriller that does an admirable job of putting us in its protagonist’s shoes. We ask the questions she asks herself, and find an answer that supplies a coherent conclusion.

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