Christopher Smith has proved time and time again that he’s a great director, capable of masterfully creating gloomy environments where confused characters must solve mind-boggling mysteries. Unfortunately, Smith’s screenplays are often too clunky, as he puts twists ahead of storytelling. As a result, Smith’s movies usually fail to deliver on their ambitious promises, betrayed by the director’s eagerness to surprise the public. Even his most beloved film, 2009’s Triangle, has its fair share of inconsistencies that prevent it from becoming the masterpiece it could have been. Still, Triangle remains the most well-received entry in Smith’s filmography because of its gimmicky work, even when the story doesn’t. The same cannot be said about Consecration, Smith’s failed attempt to breathe fresh life into the tiresome Christian horror landscape.

Written by Smith and producer Laurie Cook, Consecration follows Grace (Jena Malone), an atheist whose beliefs are put to test after her brother, Father Michael (Steffan Cennydd), supposedly commits a murder-suicide. As expected, there’s more about Father Michael’s crime than meets the eye, and Grace soon finds herself in the middle of a religious conspiracy that seems connected to her childhood traumas.

As expected from Smith, Consecration tries to bend time to increase the aura of mystery, jumping between past and present while also mixing flashbacks with supernatural visions. Every scene of Smith’s latest movie is put together to disorient the viewer and lead them to wonder what is happening at the convent where Consecration takes place. Nevertheless, despite Smith’s best efforts, Consecration doesn’t have a big secret to hold, and horror fans shouldn’t take too long to solve the puzzle of Grace’s life and Michael’s death. And once the cards are on the table, the movie loses its initial charm.

Image via IFC Midnight

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Consecration is as well-directed as Smith’s previous movies. The horror film also counts several horror veterans, including Malone (Donnie Darko, The Neon Demon), Cennydd (The Feast), and Danny Huston (American Horror Story). That means, at first glance, the movie brings everything it needs together to deliver a solid horror story. However, there’s not much for Consecration apart from its mystery. And when the answers to the movie’s deepest secrets are so poorly hidden, all that’s left is waiting impatiently for the credits to roll, hoping Smith can tie every thread together. Meanwhile, the viewer must endure trope after trope, wondering when Smith might take us in a more compelling direction.

On top of everything, Consecration still wastes time with a police investigation that doesn’t contribute to the story and frequently harms the pacing of the movie. Grace is already an atheist confronted with religious truths she doesn’t understand and who’s forced to search for the truth about her brother’s death. That means the parallel investigation conducted by the police is redundant in the best case and a hurdle in the worst. Cutting the whole police investigation out of Consecration would make the movie feel less bloated than it does without damaging the story by one bit. That’s a perfect example of the issues surrounding Consecration, as Smith seems to have come up with the mystery first, only to throw more useless elements around it to extend the story to feature length.

Consecration gets better in the third act when Smith spices things up by twisting the audience’s perception of time and continuity. Still, Consecration suffers from the same pitfalls as the filmmakers’ previous movies, putting spectacle above internal logic and challenging the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Since things drag down until the not-so-surprising ending, it’s hard to even be excited by the smart concept Smith presents just minutes before the movie’s ending. Consecration has a unique take on demonic possession, and we wish the film had explored this idea from the get-go instead of dragging everything down for a 90-minute runtime that feels much longer than it should.

The final moments of Consecration also hint at a deeper discussion about faith, zealotry, and the Holy Church’s refusal to let anything sacred exist outside the confines of Christianity. So, it’s sad that this genuinely interesting idea comes too late to save Consecration from commonplace horror bits and a central mystery that pretends to be much more clever than it actually is. Smith is still a competent director, and Consecration can boast some moments of brilliance sprinkled all over it. However, the messy script drags Consecration down, and fans still expecting a new Triangle will have to wait a little longer.

Rating: C

Consecration is in theaters now and comes to VOD on March 3.

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