Consecration (2022) poster

Consecration (2023)


UK. 2022.


Director – Christopher Smith, Screenplay – Laurie Cook & Christopher Smith, Producers – Laurie Cook, Stuart Ford, Casey Herbert, Xavier Marchand & Jason Newmark, Photography – Rob Hart & Shaun Mone, Music – Nathan Halpern, Visual Effects – Atomic Arts (Supervisor – Justin Cornish), Special Effects Supervisor – Keith Harding, Prosthetics – Nikoleta Tzani, Production Design – Elizabeth El-Kadhi. Production Company – Bigscope Films/Moonriver Productions.


Jena Malone (Grace Farlo), Danny Huston (Father Romero), Janet Suzman (Mother Superior), Thoren Ferguson (DCI Harris), Eilidh Fisher (Sister Meg), Ian Pirie (Vincent O’Rourke), Will Keen (Dr John Holmes), Alexandra Lewis (Sister Beth), Steffan Cennydd (Father Michael O’Rourke), Daisy Allen (Young Grace), Kit Rakusen (Young Michael), Jolade Obasola (Sister Matilda), Valerie Saruf (Female Patient), Godwin To (Patient’s Husband)


Grace Farlo works as an ophthalmologist in London. She receives sudden news that her brother Michael, a Catholic priest, has killed himself after blinding a nun at a convent. Grace travels to the convent in the remote north of Scotland and meets the forbidding Mother Superior. Grace is dissatisfied with the official diagnosis of his death being a suicide and becomes convinced something foul is afoot. As she investigates and uncovers the secrets of the convent, she believes the nuns are holding an important relic and that it ties back to things that happened in her and Michael’s childhood.

British director Christopher Smith made a strong debut a few years ago with the London Underground horror Creep (2004). He went on to make Severance (2006), a witty comedy that poked fun at the Backwoods Brutality genre, and the extraordinary likes of the timeloop film Triangle (2009) and the mediaeval horror Black Death (2010).

On the basis of these, I would have been more than happy to label Christopher Smith as a highly promising genre director. On the other hand, Smith’s films from the mid-2010s onwards have started to lose their steam. See the likes of the tv mini-series Labyrinth (2012), Get Santa (2014), Detour (2016) and The Banishing (2020). They’re not particularly bad, they are just strictly average works that any director could have turned out. Crucially, horror films like The Banishing and Consecration seem long way away from the heights of Creep, Triangle and Black Death.

The set-up of Consecration suggests horrific things. The convent/monastery has always had sinister purpose in films such as Catacombs (1988), Dark Waters (1993), St. Agatha (2018), the same year’s Hellhole (2022) and the subsequent Sister Death (2023). For at least half the film, Consecration seems to be drawing on clichés – sinister happenings a convent and the unveiling of a conspiracy by the church; the heroine discovering secrets about her past; the search for an occult artefact; deviltry afoot. It seems a very predictable assemblage of elements for these films.

Jena Malone in bloody surplice among the nuns of the convent in Consecration (2022)
Jena Malone (c in bloody surplice) among the nuns of the convent

On the other hand, while you are poised for a bunch of deviltry shocks, this is exactly what we don’t get. What we have is more a film that is a murder mystery about what happened at the convent than any supernatural or occult shocks. It feels a tame and uneventful playing out of the elements. In its latter sections, the film takes a left field turn, although I am not sure that I fully followed it during these scenes, which [PLOT SPOILERS] seem to indicate that Jena Malone is some type of devil figure that the church needs to suppress, before the plot then snakes back through time to reveal that this figure (also played by Jena Malone in a bloodied nun’s surplice) was also some kind of guardian angel protecting Jena and affecting her purpose.

One of the mysteries of the film is what a Catholic convent is doing situated in remote Scotland. There is this historical thing where Henry VIII drove the Catholics out of England and confiscated all the lands and wealth of the monasteries. There was enormous enmity between the Catholics and Anglicans for a number of centuries, although it has largely cooled down these days. Here all of this is dismissed in one line: “This land is still owned by the Catholics.” What you suspect is the case is that Catholic imagery is so imprinted on the horror genre when it comes to occult happenings that the filmmakers defaulted to it without any awareness of the history.

Trailer here

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