May 30, 2018 The Nursery (Movie Review)
Nothing really stays in the past. Every action and event changes the people and places surrounding them. Shadows of the past are always peeking out dark corners just waiting to find the right moment to reemerge. Set for release on VOD Tuesday, June 5, 2018 through Uncork’d Entertainment The Nursery takes a stab at showing what can happen when a seemingly boring babysitting gig is interrupted by one of these shadows.
The work of filmmakers Christopher A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro, in The Nursery, the story picks up a year after Ranae’s (Madeline Conway in her debut) mother died suddenly. She is still struggling with her own guilt and depression over the loss. She is also in need of money, so she takes a babysitting job. The couple, Roman (David Sapiro: Leaving Eden series, The Beast Within 2015) and Tanya (Deanna Sapiro in her debut), appear to be extremely thorough. They interview her twice to ensure that their three-month-old son, Miller, will be safe in her hands. The couple depart promising to be back in a few hours. Ranae is now a single adult in the house with a baby out in the middle of nowhere.
It does not take long before Ranae’s friends drop in and crash the babysitting gig. Calista (Emmaline Friederichs: Pieces of David 2017, RADIO SILENCE 2019), Grace (Carly Rae James Sauer in her debut), and Jeremy (Claudio Parrone Jr.: Takeoff 2014, Vial 2014) settle in and start watching movies. Ranae is thankful that she is not longer alone but begins to feel that something is not right. Soon, each of them receivessnaps on their phone of rather disturbing images. Ranae believes there is something sinister in the house, but her friends do not believe her. None of them can convince her that something just is not right.
Ray (Marco Lama in his debut), Ranae’s brother, has channeled his grief into an obsession with the occult. She video calls him and explains what has been happening. Ray is soon able to figure out the horrific tragic truth behind Roman and Tanya’s past. There is definitely a presence in the house. The only question is who will survive the night?
The Nursery is littered with newcomers and it shows. None of the characters seem to be connect to what is going on in the film. Conway’s Ranae consistently has a delayed reaction to anything strange or terrifying. Her face simply goes blank and does not reveal emotion. At times, it takes the viewer a bit longer than it should to realize that something dramatic actually happened. It is possible that this was an acting choice. Ranae is still in mourning over her mother after all, and not everyone reacts the same way. If it was a choice, it was the wrong one. It takes the viewer outside of the film instead of engaging. It is not all Conway’s fault, though, her character was not fully fleshed out. All that is known about her is she needs money, her mom died, and she has a brother. It is difficult to embody a character if the character itself does not have a distinct personality.
On the other hand, Lama’s Ray is a breath of fresh air. His character has personality and the viewer is instantly drawn to him. Like with Conway’s Ranae, Ray is not a fully formed character. He is merely present to explain to the viewer what is really going on in the house. The difference is that somehow Ray feels multidimensional. He is a typical teenage boy that spends more time than he should online. His character is important to the story, but he is separated from the action and yet, he feels like the only character invested in what is happening.
There are a lot of issues with the script itself. The backstory of the presence is not one of them. It is actually the only aspect that is fully fleshed out. The execution; however, did not land. Once the presence is actually seen on screen it is instantly a letdown. First impressions are everything. If the evil is not convincing, then everything that came before it fails. There is only so many times a female in a white dress with dark hair covering her face can work. Had the overall aesthetic have been different, then it alone could have made this film far more terrifying. There is always an anticipation to see the evil in a horror film. When it does not work, it buries all of the work that was put into the rest of the film.
Sometimes ideas are taken out of the shadows before they can be fully realized. The Nursery has the skeleton outline to be a memorable ghost story. There is no reason to connect with the characters and the script does seem a bit thin. Though there were some interesting techniques into bringing the ghost into the digital world, it was simply not enough to carry the film. Execution in several areas is the singular reason CrypticRock gives The Nursery 2.5 out of 5 stars.