The Isle Of Wight.When night nurse Susan leaves the soon to be closed Mercy Falls Children's Hospital due to illness, she is replaced by Amy Nicholls(Calista Flockhart). There are only eight children left on the ward, the others having been transfered to the Island's main hospital, St James's. Amy soon bonds with a young orphan girl Maggie, who informs her new carer that a 'mechanical girl' called Charlotte is visiting the ward at night. Soon, as the hour of the hospital's closure nears, strange things start to happen at Mercy Falls with children experiencing mysterious fractures, and strange noises being heard at night. Amy decides to find out just who Charlotte is, if she exists at all and what she discovers puts both herself and her charges in terrible danger.....
This superlative supernatural horror is another triumph for Spanish director Jaume Balagueró. Having already made the highly underrated Lovecraftian horror Darkness, and bravely adapting the psychological horror of Ramsey Campbell to the screen with Los sin nombre, an interesting if ultimately flawed production. Balaguero's version of Campbell's The Nameless was in fact his first full length feature. Fragile, a U.K/Spanish co-production was made before Balagueró directed the masterful [Rec] and its sequel.
Fragile succeeds despite being a very slight tale. This is partly due to Balagueró's great visual flair and partly because Fragile tells its story so very well. Okay, the creaky old Hospital with its mysterious abandoned second floor is hardly a unique setting for a ghost story, but it proves very effective as the director provides the audience with some great set pieces and subtle shocks. For example, when Amy investigates the abandoned Second Floor, what starts off as a routine journey soon turns into a real tour-de-force of delcious chills. The two old spiritualist sisters remind one of the mediums in Roeg's Dont Look Now, imparting both advice and warnings to the inquisitive Amy, and the film ends on a quite beautiful note, very satisfying and necessary. It is lovely to see a good, old fashioned ghost story with well rounded characters an a real story to tell.
Despite casting an American star in the lead role, Balagueró relies heavily on a cast that mainly consists of British character actors. None dissapoint,as every performance was extremely well judged.
Having only just turned forty, it is exciting to think what Balagueró could bring to the horror genre in the next few decades, as his output so far has been so rewarding. As for Fragile, it's a real triumph, and essential viewing for those who miss the subtle horrors of films such as Night Of The Demon, The Innocents and other great tales of terror. A fantastic viewing experience. 5 out of 5