The Nun
THE NUN
(LA MONJA) 2005
Director: Luis De La Madrid

THE CONVENT. 2000
Director: Mike Mendez

THE CONVENT
(O CONVENTO) 1995
Director: Manoel de Oliveira

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



The pre-credits sequence for The Nun (La Monja, 2005) is sufficiently artful that I thought this might turn out to be more than mere nunsploitation horror. But companies hired to do the credits for films are frequently more skillful than the crew responsible for the rest of the film.

The NunThough the elegance of the credits drops a lot once the film proper begins, it is still attention-holding, at least for a little while. A beautiful cruel nun (Cristina Piaget) acts strange & threatening toward the little girls in her class.

Years later, when the girls are grown & scattered to different places around the world, a ghost-nun begins tracking them down & killing them one by one.

The influence of Ringu & so many other J-horrors that create moods with "scary water" is obvious for The Nun. The nun appears in flooded bathrooms & wherever else water accumulates, often from out of a phantom waterspout.

The first few glimpses are very effective but as we see more & more of the nun, the sillier her manifestations seem. There is none of the beauty of the living nun we saw at the very start of the story; it would've been a stranger creepier monster if it had still had some faint resemblance to the living nun.

We quite soon realize the girls killed Sister Ursula many years before. When they realized they were being preyed upon, these women intended to gather at the closed-down Catholic school, for reasons not well stated anywhere in the script, but that's where it started, & they thought this should be where it will end. Most of the women who had been girls in that class, however, are dead before the reuinion can happen.

Along with the last three doomed women (who each die in the manner of whichever saint they were named after) is Eve (Anita Briem), the daughter of one of the first women killed by the nun. She saw the water-nun kill her mother & was witness to follow-up slayings. She is eager to solve the mystery of the killer ghost-nun, to understand her mother's fate.

On her way to Rome, Eve sees the nun on the jet's wing outside her widow-seat, in a dumb little scene copied from a famous Twilight Zone episode.

Also gathering at the closed & abandoned parochial school (for the thinnest of reasons) are three of Eve's young friends who kvetch & are not at all supportive & are boring as all hell. And there is a young man, Gabriel (Manu Fullola), studying for the priesthood. He has an unacceptable crush on Eve, given his vocation.

As the "mystery" or what passes for one unfolds, there will be a couple trivial surprises, nothing most viewers won't have predicted well ahead. We learn that the evil nun had been screwing some priest before the school girls killed her. Eve & the seminary student begin recreating that affair. But the would-be priest is too soon just a summary gore-scene victim & contributes no particular expertise or uniqueness to the plot.

One of Eve's friends likens himself "lord of the film" armed with a digital video so that his footage can provide a few Blair Witch moments. Unfortunately the film that started out all right eventually devolves into a pick-them-off-one-by-one film little different from the majority of slasher films. Some of the gore FX such as a beheading & a be-arming are pretty good, but if one expected a bit of Catholic mysticism or an exorcism or a real story thrown in, there'll be big disappointments.

Since they'd bothered to go to the school where the murder occurred I figured the climax would have something to do with destroying the evil nun-spirit's relics. But we never encounter even one of her bones. Instead, the script hokes up this ridiculous theory that if they flood the basement, the nun will become physically manifest & can be killed. Like that makes sense. These amateur actors can't drum up enough conviction to sell anything so ridiculous.

There is a final "twist" attempting to be a surprise ending, but ultimately it's all fairly standard fare, & pretty dull before it's over.


The ConventIn 1960, a Catholic school girl (Oakley Stevenson) got drunk, lit up a cigarette, & went on a nun-killing spree at the convent school. The Convent (2000) then jumps to "forty years later" when teens believe the burnt out abandoned mission is haunted & tell wild tales about nun-killing psycho Christine.

There's a trespassing party at the haunted convent, with a large number of teenagers on hand to be victimized. None of the players drum up much in the way of character except for Mo (Megahn Perry) the goth chick who should've been the central protagonist since she alone sparkles. Instead the very unmemorable Joanna Clanton as Clarissa is the last-girl-standing protagonist. Mo was way too quickly victimized in the "pick teens off one by one" plot that is not made a whole lot more interesting by monster nuns in zombie make-up.

This film seriously needed something specific to Catholic belief to give it at least a momentary illusion of texture -- something more than rented nun outfits. The script seems to have been written by a thirteen year old whose drunkard uncle punched it up a bit with some jokes, but neither of them knew anything about Catholicism except nuns dress like penguins.

When the gore gags begin, it all just gets stupider & stupider with teens being killed then rising up with blacklight paint shiny on their faces as they go all Zombie on still more teens. A lot of it seems like a highschool haunted house fundraiser production at Halloween.

The ConventThe much legended Christine spent thirty of the last forty years in a nuthouse but currently lives down the road from the convent. Mostly played for comedy, there are or one or two good laughs at long intervals, maybe three if you like faggot jokes. The Convent only gets mildly interesting when Clarissa escapes from Haunted Joke Convent & rushes to Christine's old dark house to get help in doing again what Christine had necessarily done forty years before.

At long, long last there's a character in this crapfest who makes you sit up & take notice. Christine is an old motorcycle momma with an arsenal, played by the delicious Adrienne Barbeau who may be getting old but her sex appeal has not even started to wear out.

Since the whole film is kind of a retro 1980s gorefest, with lots of '70s & '80s references in the dialogue, it's fun to see one of the Great Ones from the era in such an impressive role. Alas, Barbeau's not in the film long enough to make up for the zombie nuns being just totally retarded beginning to end.

Christine on her motorcycle charges the convent in a riot of cartoony FX blowing away teenage zombie demon nuns & it's all so har har. There's not a scary moment in the whole film but if you're hanging with a bunch of drunken buddies barely paying attention to any of the film's specifics, when the overblown gore gags reach maximum I'm sure there'll be plenty of gleeful male-bonding hoots & hollers that'll make it worth the time wasted.


O ConventoWhen I requested Mike Mendez's awful The Convent what I thought I was going to receive was Manoel de Oliveira's The Convent (O Convento, 1995) based on a magic realist novel by Agustina Bessa-Luis & starring two actors I rather like, John Malkovich & Catherine Deneuve.

With a cast that promising I expected a classier film, but The Convent is a throwback or homage to 1970s drive-in Eurohorror, posturing as a metaphysical mood piece. Doomful dialogue in shadowy rooms delivered by actors who can usually sell even such bad lines rarely seem legitimately meaningful, but do set a certain campy spooky mood.

A professor (Malkovich) researching Shakespeare's unlikely origins in Portugal, together with his disinterested wife (Deneuve), arrive at a medieval monastery to make use of its historical library. The caretaker (Luis Miguel Cintra) for the mostly abandoned monastery speaks of immortality & fame in the manner of a tempting devil, though what he wants of the professor is vague.

To a retro soundtrack we watch taciturn characters walk about the estate & through buildings & caves & gazing deeper into caverns, with lingering shots of artworks & architecture. We deduce from a goat skull & an inverted pentagram that there are devil worshippers about, but the visiting scholar & his wife seem oblivious.

The professor is assisted by a beautiful young librarian, Piedade (Leonor Silveira), a subtle temptress, while the caretaker Baltar tries to seduce the professor's wife, by turns sensitive & devilish.

The film's slogan is a quotation from Mephistopheles, "It would be better if nothing existed." Well, nothing of interest exists in The Convent. No one acts the least bit real. The film is stylized to the point that everyone walks & talks in slow motion, opens & closes doors or books in slow motion, waits long periods before speaking or answering. It's laughably pompous.

The insinuation of demonic temptations & metaphysical danger to a corny soundtrack striving to make everything seem doomful never pays off; it's wholly a tedious fraud. A little shrine to Ishtar or Aphrodite perhaps intends to reveal the nature of the Satan who inspires lust throughout the film. But the film ends with no actual revelation or event or climax of any kind. I've rarely sat through a film any more dull & empty than this.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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