With Roberto De Feo’s The Nest (Il Nido) being one of the most positive surprises in 2019, in terms of horror cinema, I felt compelled to delve in-depth into this Italian horror film. This article will feature major spoilers, so I’d recommend reading my spoiler-free review of the movie if you don’t want your experience ruined. You’ve been warned!
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.
Continue reading the spoiler-filled section below…
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The premise to the movie, and its mysterious first act, lead to believe that this is a haunted house / religious cult type of horror flick. However, it’s really hard to understand where and when The Nest is set: the mansion and the way characters are dressed makes you believe this movie is set at the beginning of the 20th century, but there are modern (and rusty) cars outside, and the gardener walks around with a modern rifle. On top of that, at one point the character of Denise, a young teenage girl played by Ginevra Francesconi is introduced to the movie: she’s dressed in modern clothes, though these are dirty and worn-out. Yet, she befriends Samuel and gives him an iPod (!) that she claims her carer named Ettore used to listen to when his was young (!!!). At this point, the viewer is utterly confused: what the hell is going on here? Did the director make so many continuity errors that he introduced modern items in a period piece?
[MAJOR SPOILER!] I’ll tell you what’s going on: at the end of The Nest, Denise convinces Simon (who fell in love with her in the meantime) to leave the mansion and, while the two are driving away, it’s revealed that the rest of the world is inhabited by goddamn zombies! This is a plot twist that doesn’t only shock the viewer, but completely changes the sub-genre this film belongs to: from haunted-house mystery film, The Nest turns out to be, in fact, a post-apocalyptic zombie flick.
With such an unpredictable ending, The Nest implies that the undead have been roaming the fields of the planet for a very long time and that the outbreak happened in present time (in the 2000s): this is why an old iPod has been used for over 50 years, and this is why modern cars are rusty and derelict.
The Nest is a movie that subtly spread hints throughout the runtime, but it ends with a twist that:
- Allows everything to make sense and to add up
- Is completely unpredictable and shocking
The love interest – Throughout the whole movie, I kept wondering why the film insisted so much on Denise trying to seduce Samuel. This love interest felt quite forced and out of place in such a dour picture. However, if you pay attention to a map Denise reads towards the end of the film, there’s the word arca (Italian for Noah’s Ark) and, as you know, the Bible says Noah brought a couple of every species on his ark in order to save them and repopulate the world after the flood.
This completely explains why Denise shows such interest toward Simon and it does that without any exposition! In short, the only way to be safe from the undead is a modern Noah’s Ark – which might be a spaceship or an actual boat that takes you to remote places on the planet – and Denise needs a partner in order to be accepted on the ark. This is why she forces this sort of romance on Simon (who’s very naïve and innocent), which is, in turn, why the romance feels forced and weird throughout the film. Furthermore, when it’s revealed that the world is populated by zombies (that are incredibly scary-looking, by the way), Denise completely changes character: she becomes cold and distant because she really didn’t care for Simon; she just needed a person her own age to save herself from the apocalypse.
A perfect build-up – The Nest is filled with clever and unnoticeable hints to what’s going on outside of the mansion: the movie opens with a car accident (from which Simon becomes paralysed) that, in retrospect, has probably been caused by Simon’s parents trying to drive away from the zombies. Throughout the film, Simon’s mother and the ‘mad doctor’ keeps reiterating the importance of staying away from animals, which depends on the fact that they might be infected by the same virus that turned humans into monsters. One of the maids of the mansion has a creepy-ass nightmare where a crawling creature tries to eat her alive: this happens the night Denise comes to the house – hence, the maid was afraid Denise would bring the virus into their safe place or even that Denise might be affected.
So many little details like the ones listed above are scattered over the course of The Nest. They serve a double purpose: on one hand, they give hints to the upcoming twist and make it believable in retrospect. On the other hand, they provide the audience with a fear of the unknown: Roberto De Feo understood that a horror movie needs to be odd and uncomfortable to be scary, in fact this movie adds a layer of nightmarish execution to what seems to be an unsettling gothic tale.
The Nest is a movie I loved on my first watch due to visuals, acting and jaw-dropping twist; but, like good wine, gets better on consequent viewings, where everything becomes clearer and the overall picture is finally understandable.
Hopefully, this article will help you better understand this fantastic debut film that I consider to be one of the very best horror movies of 2019… and the best Italian horror film of the last 3 decades!
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