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Case Number 25754: Small Claims Court

Buy Nailbiter at Amazon


Lionsgate // 2013 // 82 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // May 31st, 2013

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Mac McEntire eats nails for breakfast. No, wait, that's Chuck Norris.

The Charge

Fear will surface.

The Case

Bad girl Jennifer (Meg Saricks) is traveling through Kansas with her mother (Erin McGrane) and her two sisters, nice girl Sally (Sally Spurgeon), and smart girl Alice (Emily Boresow). Driving headfirst into a tornado, our heroes take refuge in the basement of a seemingly abandoned house. Soon storm debris blocks all exits, trapping them there, which is when they discover…they are not alone! They're being hunted by someone, or something.

Let's cut to the chase. For as much time as we spend in that basement, there's very little sense of geography. We're never clear on how big of a space it is or what all is down there. In every other shot, it feels like we're seeing yet another new unseen corner. Did the producers forget this is supposed to feel claustrophobic? Similarly, the story leaves the basement for huge chunks of time, to follow a subplot with a cop and a quirky old lady, which only serves to diminish what little claustrophobic feel remains.

During the commentary, there's a lot of talk about how everyone wants to come back for a sequel, which means we only get partial explanations as to what the monster is and where it came from. As of this writing, I've no idea if a sequel is indeed in the works, or if this is mere speculation, but it's unfortunate the filmmakers want to hold off on showing us the good stuff until Part Two.

Did I like anything about Nailbiter? Yes! Actress Meg Saricks carries the film excellently, taking her character on a journey from mere bad attitude princess to full-on action tough girl. The "we're screwed" look on her face, when she first sees the tornado, says all that's needed without any dialogue. Her feistiness and fierce determination in the later scenes had me wishing we could go back to her when the camera was focused on other characters.

Lionsgate's standard def 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby 5.1 Surround track are decent, with colors shining through during the outdoors scenes. For bonus features, we're given two commentaries—a lighthearted chatty one from the cast, and a more serious technical one from the filmmakers—as well as a storyboard-to-screen comparison, and some trailers.

Nailbiter is a claustrophobic thriller that's not claustrophobic enough, with a monster that remains too ambiguous. I wish everyone the best of luck for Part Two, because this one feels incomplete.

The Verdict

Back to the basement with you.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentaries
• Storyboard Comparison
• Trailers


• IMDb

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