Friday, February 10, 2023

Consecration, Starring Danny Huston

This troubled convent sits amid the only independent land in Scotland—because it is owned by the Vatican. However, being reasonable people, the Church still allows the local police to investigate a brutal murder-suicide committed there. They even open their doors to Grace O’Rourke, whose brother allegedly killed a priest, before taking his own life. Skeptical of their story, she is determined to uncover the truth in Christopher Smith’s Consecration, which opens today in New York.

O’Rourke and her brother Michael endured a harrowing childhood, but they went their separate ways in adulthood. She is an outspoken atheist optometrist, while he was involved with rigorously devout Catholic sect. She therefore refuses to believe Michael killed himself. Sure enough, she uncovers inconsistencies in the handing of his body that lead directly back to the severe Mother Superior.

That does not sit well with Father Romero, who is visiting from the Vatican to re-consecrate the chapel. He is not amused with the Mother Superior’s questionable initiative, but he also seems to have his own agenda. Nevertheless, he encourages O’Rourke to keep digging, including research into the convent’s colorful crusader-era history.

Smith clearly took a great deal of inspiration from films like
Mother Joan of the Angels, because he revels in similar imagery of prostrate nuns. As Kawalerowicz, Smith and co-screenwriter Laurie Cook convincingly suggest the distinction between devotion and madness is sometimes difficulty to draw. However, like any halfway effective demonic thriller, Consecration leaves us with the unsettling understanding that evil, as understood in Biblical terms, is something that is tangibly real.

Nevertheless, Smith is no William Peter Blatty, either in his capacity to get under viewers’ skin or his faith in the Church to combat the forces of darkness. Frankly,
Consecration is about as anti-Church as a religious horror film can get and still function to any degree.

A lot of credit for that goes to Danny Huston, who is terrific as Father Romero (sounding more like his father or an O’Rourke than a Romero, but whatever). He has a rapier-sharp almost vintage Peter Cushing-like presence that propels the film. Every one of his scenes ripples with energy. Jena Malone is also pretty convincing as the fraying O’Rourke, even when Smith has her saying obnoxious things at inopportune times.

The wonderfully Medieval convent is also a huge plus. To a large extent,
Consecration plays like Catholic horror film made by defiant non-believers—that sort of works anyway. Maybe there is some truth in there that comes out unintentionally. Recommended with reservations for demonic horror fans, Consecration opens today (2/10) in New York, at the AMC Empire.