North Carolina filmmaker Mark Young is no newbie when it comes to filmmaking as TOOTH & NAIL is his fourth feature film. Even though he’s been around for nearly a decade, I still feel as if Young has a bright future ahead of him as a director. Visually NAIL is remarkable and interesting, but some deep seeded problems destroy what could have been a new indie masterpiece. The root of the film’s problems all lie within the screenplay, which was also written by Young, thus leaving the final product a mixed bag.
In the film starring Rachel Miner, Nicole DuPort, Robert Carradine, Rider Strong, Michael Kelly, Emily Young, Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, a group of young people, called Foragers, fight to survive against a band of vicious cannibals, known as Rovers, in a post-apocalyptic world which has been depleted of fossil fuels.
TOOTH & NAIL is an incredibly atmospheric film that looks quite expensive for such a modest budget. The movie has a very grainy “realistic” look, which helps bring the viewer into this post-apocalyptic world. The blood, when used, is quite realistic and fantastic. NAIL is an extremely violent movie with the cannibals stabbing and axing their victims to a merciless end. What’s nice is that Young doesn’t overdo the blood, which would make the film campy – a lot of it is implied. Done correctly it’s quite effective; thank God Young knows what he’s doing.
Stylistically Young hits it on the mark, but when it comes to the screenplay… yikes. First of all I don’t understand Cannibal movies and their logic. Do us humans run around torturing cows before we kill and eat them? Apparently Cannibals like to build relationships with their foods and even toy with them. Maybe before we eat a cow we should tip it over and come back later for it? But that’s beyond the point; the main problem in the script is the pacing. Around the 45 minute mark I start e-mailing some friends telling them this movie might be something special and by the end I was regretting it. Literally the second I sent the last e-mail it hit the floor and hit it hard. The movie becomes loaded with heavy exposition and useless dialogue. As if the movie was a real person, I began to beg it to get better as I screamed “something happen already, PLEASE!” It didn’t listen, it didn’t react… it just mocked me and got more and more boring. It was as if the movie was laughing in my face.
And then the finale shows it face – just wait until you hear this. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know how it ends. So our lead character walks into a bathroom and has her life changing moment. She smears make-up on her face and paints herself up like a warrior… she has evolved into the hunter. This is the defining moment in the film where the character is supposed to face her fears and take control of her life. I was pumped; here comes the battle to the death. Guess what happens? She walks down to the lair of the cannibals who have just feasted on one of their human victims. For some odd reason ALL of them are just lying there, like they’re paralyzed. She proceeds to go one by one and shoot them with an arrow, killing them. No suspense, no action, NOTHING. Then we get even more exposition, explaining how she cleverly poisoned the dead bodies. Congratulations on being so clever that the finale ends up sucking on the highest of levels.
As a matter of fact, the second half of this movie is so atrocious that I’ll end my review on the same half-assed note. There’s a movie called TOOTH & NAIL. It’s awesome, then nothing happens, and then even more of nothing happens. End credits.