In "Consecration," after the suspicious death of her brother Michael (Steffan Cennydd), a priest, Grace (Jena Malone) goes to the Mount Saviour Convent in Scotland to find out what really happened. Once there, she uncovers murder, sacrilege and a disturbing truth about her own past.

"Consecration" is the story of Grace, an accomplished ophthalmologist in London, who's summoned to Mount Saviour Convent deep in the Scottish Highlands following the sudden and mysterious death of her brother who was a priest. Refusing to believe the convent’s insistence that he took his life and determined to discover what really happened to him, Grace starts her own investigation into her brother’s death as the nuns prepare a consecration ceremony to purify the holy site.

In doing so, she inadvertently shines a light on something far more disturbing, which relates to the forgotten years of her own childhood, intertwined with that of the holy order of the convent and the secret it’s charged with protecting. As much as her investigation draws her there, Grace feels as though Mount Saviour is drawing her in and closing its arms around her. The convent lies under the shadow of an ancient church’s ruins, the convent’s predecessor, which gaze out onto the gray and boundless Atlantic coastline. Wormlike markings are etched around the crucifixes on the cold stone walls, which once encased a relic. They called it “God’s Vessel Vas Autem Deus.”

But it was known by another name. 'There's but one God. And his Shadow'. It was said to be unholy, the darkness that proved the light. Exploring the convent’s sepulchral cloisters, and the wild cliffs and windswept beaches nearby, Grace is plagued by violent visions unmoored from time and reality. This place awakens traumatic memories of her father’s crazed intent to punish his family for an evil he saw in Grace. As she nears the truth, hidden in the cryptic notes of her brother’s journal, a Shadow from a dormant age begins to claw out for her.

Grace’s journey of self-discovery propels her to horrifying depths, the true nature of whom she's unraveling before her, along with her psyche. Suspicious of the Church's narrative, Grace tries to find out what really happened with the help of Vatican priest Father Romero (Danny Houston). As she explores the sepulchral cloisters of the convent, and the rugged cliffs and windswept beaches nearby, she discovers not only murder and sacrilege, but a disturbing truth about her own past that brings to the surface. A long-buried trauma. All the while, the convent closes ranks about her.

The concept of the film is, that if someone died in church, it's deemed unholy until re-consecrated. There's this window where evil could lurk in the most sacred of places. We can remember this scene from a Czech film called "The Valley of The Bees" (1968) in which a Priest willingly walks backwards to a hole in the floor to his own death. We've a character who, for every step back they take, a sin is forgiven. The film plays with themes of time and memory. We do not believe in ghosts per se, but that ghosts are the demons that we bury away in ourselves, that’s what haunts us. 

As a framework this led to an original take on religious horror with the complex lead character of Grace, a modern, secular woman and take her back to the Middle Ages, both literally and metaphorically in the story. The consecration ceremony is the climax to the film. It's basically being crowd-surfed by a group of nuns. There's a strange beauty in the nuns. They look like they're made out of marble, and then a splatter of blood on them, there's some sort of grace to that in a Gothic way.

The Scottish Highlands are almost a character unto itself, a presence throughout the script that layers the atmosphere and slowly closes in around Grace. The cliff top ruins of Duntulum Castle, on the Isle of Skye, perfectly matches the description in the screenplay, especially the end twists, depth of character and irreverence. You feel how majestic it's and how far away it's from cities and towns.

The difficulty lies in making a film that features both science and religion prominently, and where there's profound interaction between both. This is the case for "Consecration." The question is then to what extent the religious and scientific imagery of "Consecration" tells a story of complexity.

The film reflects science and religion as sharing similar challenges related to doubt and pain, but also as depending on each other to supply explanations to the horrific events taking place in the film. The feeling of mystery, doubt, and uncertainty that runs through the film complexifies the relationship between science and religion. Rather than scientific methods being opposed in their efficacy to the methods of Exorcism, they're portrayed as much more similar in the way in which they can inspire hope and doubt, heal and inflict pain.

The violent subversion of religious imagery contributes to cinematic neurosis to repressed emotions. "Consecration" can be seen as a trend of secularization in the sense that religion should be used as a guide to social and cultural life. On the religious side, occultism and superstition is shown to be enduring aspects of religious belief in the 21st Century. In addition, even when we discount the more outlandish reports of audience reactions, spectators are very far from being left yawning in front of the film.

We've similarities to films like "Black Narcissus" (1947), "Rosemary’s Baby" (1968), "The Exorcist" (1973), and how poignant religion is and the tapestry of religion, the myths and tales that are so much of our make-up. We see the same glasses, Max von Sydow used in "The Exorcist," a little nod to those films.

"Consecration" is a cool mixture of a religious thriller meeting a psychological horror. We're not scared of the dead, we're scared of the living, and we think it’s that slippery slope that leads a devout religious person to become a killer. The subconscious fear that we've in horror when it becomes about our belief and our religious sentiments is something that works magic. It's not the religion, it’s the way the religion is manipulated.


Opens Thu, Feb 9

Gateway Film Center, 1550 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, 7:00p
AMC Dine-in Easton Town Center 30, 275 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH 43219, 7:00p
Cinemark Polaris 18, 1071 Gemini Pl, Columbus, OH 43240, 7:00p 9:30p
Marcus Pickerington Cinema, 1776 Hill Road N, Pickerington, OH 43147, 7:30p