The Inverse Review

Consecration Worships at the Altar of Jena Malone

Jena Malone is a standout in Christopher Smith’s muddled religious horror movie.

When people experience childhood traumas, their bodies often push them to the outskirts of their minds. They forget, in order to cope. Some find religion, others eschew a belief in anything that could have allowed the trauma to occur in the first place.

That is the foundation of the upcoming Shudder film Consecration, an absorbing religious horror film that questions the ideals of the church while also interrogating the unknown nature of spirituality. The movie does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to these concepts, but one thing that it never forgets to ask: is what lies beneath as unsettling as it seems to be?

Consecration follows Grace, a young woman informed that her brother, a priest, died under unknown circumstances at a convent. She’s told that he committed suicide, but she doesn’t trust what the church tells her — so she decides to visit the convent of her own accord and get to the bottom of what happened to her brother. There’s a story waiting for her there, though, one full of murder, abuse, and crushing truths about a life she has long since forgotten.

It’s unsurprising that Jena Malone is the standout here, nailing the passion and attitude needed to sell this role. She’s excellent at playing strong female characters with agency, and this one is no exception. She aces every part of Grace’s guarded presence and fierce command over herself, and takes no prisoners in her quest to find out what happened to seemingly the only person who has ever loved her in her life. Malone finds the delicate balance of dedication and fear, then, as the film ramps up, pushes her confidence to the max with the final act. Danny Huston, who plays opposite Malone as a head priest at the convent, delivers a sly, unnerving portrayal of someone who seems to be hiding major secrets, helping to build the movie’s eerie atmosphere.

The film takes on a dark and foreboding tone, thanks in large part to the moody cinematography. DPs Rob Hart and Shaun Mone build a foundation for the scares using clever lighting tricks to amplify darkness. Many of the best tonal moments in the film are supernatural or otherworldly scares, but are framed just so in the camera to play with audience perception. But the cinematographers also frame the real-life terrors of the movie with an eerie precision and curated gloom. What you’re watching is horrifying, but it’s made that much worse by the murky shadows cast upon the villainous faces of Grace and her brother.

Danny Huston in Consecration.


Unfortunately, the movie’s worst enemy is its structure. It’s a shame, because the story itself — especially the film’s ultimate twist — is really interesting. Director Christopher Smith undoubtedly wants the audience to feel satisfied by giving a female figure such a lauded role in Biblical history. But the full impact of that choice is muddled by an unclear pathway. The film’s narrative doesn’t always land when it comes to the lore Smith and cowriter Laurie Cook try to build. It’s hard to get the full picture of the film’s mythos and make sense of it in real time. The outcome, which is essentially the film’s climax and ending, is laid out crystal clear, but not being able to make complete sense of how we got there isn’t nearly as fulfilling as it could’ve been.

The movie is different from the typical Christianity-centric horror fare, and if for nothing else, that makes Consecration worth the watch. But an unclear narrative is always going to be the downfall of even the most confidently stylized work. No matter what, the film is a reminder of what Malone can do when given a strong role within a big-picture spiritual concept. It certainly will leave somewhat forgiving audience members wanting to see more from Smith, especially considering how compelling his overall concept is. In a perfect world, both he and Malone would revisit this story and expand upon it. But it seems that, for now, Consecration will end up coasting on its concept instead of using it as a framework to bolster the rest of the film’s most crucial elements.

Consecration is playing in theaters now.

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