I think it’s safe to say that I am a die-hard horror fan. As such, I’ve watched some terrible films and some good ones. And to be honest, there are very few horror films I would outright write off as being too bad to watch. Luckily, The Nursery, coming to video-on-demand on June 5, 2018, is not one of those films. No, it’s not stellar…but it’s not bad either.
College student Ranae arrives at the home of Roman and Tanya, where she’ll be babysitting their three-month old baby Miller. Shortly after they leave, Ranae has a strange dream which wakes her and prompts her to check on the infant. After she receives a disturbing text message, her friends Calista, Grace, and Jeremy arrive to keep her company. Things take a turn for the worse from that point on and, with the help of Ranae’s brother Ray, the group try to figure out who the spirit is as it hunts them down one-by-one.
For the most part, the premise for this story should be relatively familiar to anyone who watches horror. Basically, this is a twist on the Japanese ghost called the yūrei (think The Ring or The Grudge). According to Japanese folklore, when a person dies violently, they can return to the physical world to torment the living. This will continue until they are finally laid to rest through various means. The writers on The Nursery almost certainly took their inspiration from this legend, and Ray explains a very similar version of this tale to the group as they try to determine what’s happening to them.
The acting in The Nursery is a bit of a mixed bag. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how much of the issues I saw were from the skill of the actors themselves. I almost want to blame the writing and direction for the failures in this area.
The biggest problem was that in a lot of scenes, the characters’ actions didn’t fit the situation. For example, before things really start happening, the baby starts crying and Ranae goes to check on him. Yet, she’s walking incredibly slowly through the house, like an enthralled tourist strolling through the Louvre. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of babysitter would do this. I mean, the poor kid is screaming and she’s sneaking up on him? It just didn’t make sense.
The other issue with The Nursery was that the characters not well-developed. In fact, they were pretty much written as two-dimensional stereotypes and given dialogue that only served to reinforce those stereotypes. Jeremey, for example, was the archetypal asshole—totally unlikeable with zero redeeming qualities. Grace was the slut; Calista, the tough one; Ranae, the crazy one; and Ray the smart nerdy one. Each and every one of the characters were defined by a single trait. This severely limits the audience’s ability to connect with them.
The soundtrack included a few interesting songs in addition to the usual instrumental music. Honestly, I liked the almost dreamy quality of the vocals, such as those in Potion Jar by Aby Wolf that plays during the opening credits. I just liked the feel it gave the movie. It reminded me of movies like Scream. I don’t know why…it just did.
For the most part, the cinematography was okay but it started out iffy. The dream sequence in the beginning, for example, was a bit strange and seemed out-of-place. Not to mention, it made heavy use of distorted sound and weird psychedelic visual effects. I know the intent was to make it clear that something was “off” or to indicate that Ranae was in a dream world but it fell somewhat short of this.
Of course, the crew made great use of color. Obviously, lighting and color, especially in horror films, are important elements that influence the viewer’s emotions. Red, for example, can be used to increase the sense of danger. Blue can make the audience feel a character’s isolation from reality or sanity. Personally, I’d say the color and lighting choices were more than appropriate throughout the film.
Again, The Nursery isn’t perfect but it’s still alright. If you get the chance to watch it when it comes out this June, definitely do so. It’s certainly worth it.