Director – Andrey Iskanov
Cast – Alexander Shevchenko, Svyatoslav Iliyasov, Irina Nikitina, Andrey Iskanov
Release Year – 2003
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Thanks to a close friend of mine I recently had the opportunity to watch controversial Russian director Andrey Iskanov(Philosophy of a Knife)’s debut film, Nails. Only an hour long and coming off in the surreal vein of Eraserhead and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Nails is a visually engaging film that delivers high levels of extreme psychological horror sure to please those who enjoy these types of films.
In Nails we watch a hitman suffering the effects of his violent career as his mental health slowly degrades, forcing him to resort to trepanning to relieve him of his anxiety and the horror stemming from it.
Nails will be a hard film for some to view, mainly because of how odd and outlandish it is. With very few spoken words, it is the visuals that sell the film thanks to its very simplistic story. It took Andrey Iskanov a mere 4 days to complete the film’s screenplay, which honestly surprised me because given what I saw I bet the screenplay could have been written in half that time. I enjoy psychological horror films, so watching the hitman slowly succumb to the career that he chose was great, especially because I enjoy horror films who’s horror comes as a result of selfish decisions made by the protagonist. He is constantly haunted by recurring visions of those he executed in cold-blood, keeping him from sleep and leading him to make harrowing decisions that will not end well. The highlight of the film is when the hitman finally decides to deal with the pain his own way by drilling nails into his head, reminiscent of a long-ago process known as trepanning, in which a hole would be drilled into the person’s skull to treat intracranial diseases. There really is not much more going on in Nails besides the hitman’s mental issues and his decision to drill nails into his head, meaning it is the direction that sells the film.
Andrey Iskanov did a fine job with the film’s amazing visuals, which had to be of a high degree in order to sell this virtually silent film. Much like Eraserhead, we are treated with lots of unique sounds and white noise, making this surreal film the ultimate engagement of human senses. Iskanov throws in some awesome live-action effects, which come in heavy dosage during the film’s latter scenes involving the nail drilling and deliver some awesome gore. For a film of such a low-budget, around 10,000 Russian rubles which is the equivalent of $327 US dollars, Nails does much with very little.
Overall, Nails delivers a very fine low-budget attempt at psychological horror with its unique plot and superb execution from Andrey Iskanov. Visually and audibly engaging, we are given a truly horrific experience that may be hard for some to enjoy due to its presentation, but in the end gives us horror in true form.