Released in Italy as The Nest (Il Nido), this is the first feature-length film from Roberto De Feo, an up-and-coming filmmaker whose short movies made him somewhat famous in the festival circuit. The Nest is, also, the first Italian movie in a long time to be produced by a big studio (Vision Distribution) and to have a decent production budget.
The Nest is now available in theatres in Italy and, to my understanding, you can find it online with English subtitles if you search hard enough.
This film revolves around Samuel (Justin Korovkin), a paraplegic young teenager who lives with his mother Elena (Francesca Cavallin) in an isolated, gothic mansion. Elena and the house doctor (Maurizio Lombardi), together with some of the guests who come and go, often speak secretively about a “new society” and the role of Samuel in it. What do they mean by that? What’s the mystery behind the mansion? What awaits Samuel outside?
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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When I went to see the movie with my girlfriend (pictures below), I didn’t have any plan to review it: in the best-case scenario, I thought, The Nest was going to be a well-produced haunted house flick that mimicked the tropes and success of similar American movies.
Boy, was I wrong!
The Nest is mix of horror and psycho drama, where everything you expect to have predicted is subverted at the very end of the film. Most of all – and I’m enthusiastic to say this – this is a film from a filmmaker who fully understands the genre: every bit of this movie had me nodding along as though this was the best possible way to direct and film each scene.
Nearly every single part of this movie is perfectly nailed by Roberto De Feo: the beginning is impactful, mysterious and creepy as hell; the middle part develops characters, provides some effective scares and thickens the riddle; the ending is so unexpected, well-executed and memorable.
Besides the main plot points being perfectly executed in the film, The Nest establishes a perfect gothic atmosphere throughout, which really grabs you from the opening scene until the end credits start rolling. This is due to three main factors: visuals, performances/characters, score.
To be perfectly honest, the cinematography in this film completely floored me. This is one of the best-looking horror films of the decade: the variety of beautiful shots and unique camera-angles, the use of fish-eye lenses to widen the scenes we’re watching, the meticulous shot composition, the symmetry to be found in every sequence are simply jaw-dropping. There isn’t a single technical mistake in the movie, there isn’t a single shot that feels unplanned or poorly thought-out. The Nest is a technical marvel that, experienced on the silver screen, nearly made me emotional like only Gaspar Noe’ and Sion Sono’s visuals can do.
This is, also, a movie that relies heavily on character development: Samuel, Elena, the house doctor and Denise (a young girl introduced later on in the picture) are all realistic, multi-layered protagonists you really get emotions from. The solid character writing is helped by outstanding performances all-around: Francesca Cavallin as Elena steals the show with a performance that’s at least on par with Toni Colette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o in Us and Florence Pugh in Midsommar. Every scene with her was pure goosebumps-material.
The score, partially composed for the movie, partially made of classical music and with a single modern song, is part of what makes the film so unsettling. The proof that this is such a great soundtrack consists of taking an overuse track (Where is My Mind? by Placebo) and turning it into something unique and fitting due to the piano rendition.
On top of all that, The Nest utilises horror conventions in the best way possible: as I said, it uses a somewhat played-out premise (isolated mansion, seemingly secret cult, gothic setting) and defies every expectation that comes with it. Besides, the movie doesn’t shy away from horror tropes. Jump-scares and dream sequences happen here, but they effectively implement the experience for two reasons: first, they don’t rely on post-production tricks to be spooky and, instead, loud noises come within the film’s universe (a woman screaming, “something” trying to break in…); secondly, by the end of The Nest, their use is justified by the big reveal.
If I have to think about flaws with The Nest, the biggest issue is the presence of two side-characters (introduced halfway) whose role is very secondary: they’re depicted in a rather cartoonish way and they’re there just to propel the story. It’s slightly lazy writing. Yet, between second and third act, The Next takes a dive in terms of pacing and I feel like things could’ve been sped up a bit or 5 minutes could’ve been cut out.
In conclusion, The Nest is the horror movie that surprised me the most ever since It (2017): I didn’t have any anticipation for De Feo’s picture, and it completely blew me away. This is a film that has everything horror fans (both mainstream and more demanding ones) could ask for: it’s perfectly shot, purposefully filmed, it’s got a shocking and unexpected twist, it’s well-acted and well-scored, it’s scary and unsettling, atmospheric and touching, mysterious and unique.
The Nest (Il Nido) 8/10*
* I could have given it 9/10 easily, but I’m being cautious: in the future, I will write a THE NEST – ENDING EXPLAINED, where I might give the movie a higher grade. Having seen The Nest only one time, and due to its shocking plot-twist, I need to re-watch the film to understand whether everything adds up (as it seems) or something isn’t fully justified by the reveal. Still, this is a fantastic film regardless: don’t miss it out!
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