Nailed (2007)

Nailed is an impressive little urban horror flick that was filmed largely in, of all places, Ireland — a country with so few black people that it’s actually not considered a bad trait. It’s sort of like finding someone from the lost city of Atlantis: neat! (Or so I assume.)

Anyway, as I was saying, Nailed makes the most of a modest budget with strong acting and writing and efficient direction. It was originally written as an Irish film but adapted to a Los Angeles setting (the opening scenes do seem to be filmed there). Executive producer Ben Katz even drafted several actors from his bigger-budget production Johnny Was (including Samantha Mumba in a small role), which was being made at the same time.

The plot is simple enough: Keller (Charles Porter) and Scott (Sam Sarpong) are two petty criminals who arrange to make a drug deal for local bossman Rafael (Ray Stoney). However, the guys buying the drugs are undercover po-po. When the sparks start to fly, the duo escapes by hiding in an old abandoned house…or so it seems. It’s actually home to a nameless, bed-ridden guy wrapped up in gauze and his caretaker, the unnervingly tranquil Adam (Wilson Jermaine Heredia). It’s also home to unspeakable pain and suffering, but we’ll get to that later.

Scott, who wears authentically nonsensical LA gear (short sleeves and a knit cap), has been shot, and the two force Adam at gunpoint to care for his wounds. The crooks soon realize that something’s not quite right with this house, though. They start to feel sick and hallucinate but can’t leave until the heat dies down — a great plot device that forces them to deal with the spooky house. Taking place in such an enclosed area and filled with emotion-charged dialogue, Nailed has the feel of a play.

Basically, it’s one of those ambiguous “I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-but-I’ll-let-it-play-out-so-they-can-reveal-the-twist-ending” movies that’s become so prevalent in the post-Sixth Sense and The Others age. The problem with these types of films is that they rely heavily on the action and characters being so engaging that the audience is willing to to sit through 85 minutes of confusion for five minutes of payoff.

That said, the characters in Nailed are indeed engaging enough, but the action stalls a bit in the middle. Although the mood is sufficiently spooky, the scary imagery is generic — snakes, doors slamming by themselves, blood in a sink, a strange woman walking around — and the dialogue doesn’t always seem to forward the plot, which ends up feeling like a Twilight Zone episode stretched to 80 minutes.

Still, with the quality of acting, writing and direction on display, Nailed has to be considered one of the better urban horror movies of all time. Urban horror has always been a whipping boy — perhaps deservedly so — in the already quality-starved horror genre, but with films like Nailed, Holla, Dead Heist and to a lesser extent, Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror and Gangs of the Dead all coming out within a year of each other, things in the hood are looking brighter than ever.

“Sweet! A fence!”
Few dared invade Mush Mouth’s turf.
“If it’s Brendan Fraser, tell him I’m not here.”
“This place is way too small for my flat screen.”
Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my ladies to have a face.

What do you think?