Jaume Balagueró has become something of a revered name in horror. That's because of his movie [REC], which pretty much scared the pants off of anyone whose seen it-including little old me, which is a bit hard to do. That out of the way, he's been doing horror before that classic, including the Ramsey Campbell adaptation "The Nameless", the disappointing Anna Paquin vehicle "Darkness" and this movie, 2005's "Fragile", which is just now getting it's US debut.
Nurse Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart) has a new job at a rundown hospital, where what do ya know, mysterious events have been occurring. While befriending a little girl named Maggie (Yasmin Murphy), she learns of the story of a ghost known as the "Machine Girl" (who in no way has anything to do with the movie of the same name.) Thing is, this ghost may be all to real, and she doesn't want any of the children leaving the hospital, no matter what.
While not the knock 'em out scare machine that [REC] was, "Fragile" is a nice, understated little gem worth discovering. The acting is impressive throughout, with Flockhart making for a great lead who takes the material seriously and never acts like its beneath her, all while making you care for her and the plight of the children. Speaking of which, the child actors here are very good-better than they usually are in these kinds of movies-especially Murphy, who damn near knocks it out the park with her performance. Apart from that, the movie boasts some really nice scares, especially nearing the end in which the Machine Girl's presence is fully felt, and she's one pissed of lady, not to mention a really creepy one as well. Add some very strong direction and a great score by Roque Baños, and who have a winner.
But it's not a perfect movie. If the movie does have any minor hangnails, it's that the movie lifts a little too liberally from the kind of cliches you'd expect from Japanese Horror movies, and while the Machine Girl is an ominous figure, she doesn't feel all that original. Also, the ending was a bit too Hollywood horror for my taste, and it does have too many "She's real!" "No she isn't!" arguments among characters. I'm not asking for people to believe the character right away, but do we really need this "They learn when it's too late" stuff all the time?
While it didn't blow me away like [REC] did, "Fragile" is still worth a look for those like to look for hidden treats in the horror genre. Not totally fulfilling, but still impressive.