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This movie will nail you- just give it FIVE minutes.
As a fan of fun horror movies like "The Evil Dead", "From Beyond", and "Demons" (or even "Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers"), I find today's multiplexes a barren wasteland when it comes to frenzied, hilarious, gore-and-violence filled fright flicks. I'm forced to choke down pale simulacrums like "Valentine", "Dracula 2000", and "Urban Legends: Final Cut" in theaters, while voraciously re-watching the Herschell Gordon Lewis/Coffin Joe catalog at home. I'm a sad horror junkie aching for a fix.
That's why viewing "The Convent" in a theater packed with like-minded gore-o-philes was a near orgasmic experience. Finally, a modern horror flick that aims for all the right targets, hitting most of them and shoveling a bucket-load of entertainment down my parched, killer-nun hungry gullet.
"The Convent" tells the tale of some dopey fraternity types breaking into an abandoned nunnery only to encounter carnage-hungry ghouls, fey devil worshippers, and oodles of cool imagery, skin peeling, and decapitations. When's the last time they made a movie about that kind of stuff that wasn't crap? What's even more impressive is that this movie is funny- hilariously so, and on purpose. In fact, not only is "The Coven" better than most recent horror movies, it's funnier than most so-called comedies. I dare anyone with a sick sense of humor not to fall in love with the destined-to-be-legendary flashback scene of evil nuns running amuck through a 1950s Catholic School.
The dialog is great, too (In retrospect, I can think of only one stupid line that made me cringe, concerning saving one's virginity for pasty poser Marylyn Manson) and delivered by a capable, amiable cast who turn stereotypical roles into likable characterizations. I expected to hate the stoner womanizer and the Goth chick lead, but the actors playing them were so good that I ended up loving them. There's even two characters who seem to be straight out of those "Saturday Night Live" Goth Talk sketches, but they are funny and I was actually looking forward to seeing more of them! Throw in Coolio and Bill Mosely (Chop-Top in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2") as dope-snatching college cops and Adrienne Barbeau as a legendary DemoNun slayer and you've got an affair to remember!
Yet another thing that endeared me to this flick was the fact that it was obviously made by knowledgeable horror fans, but unlike similar (but far inferior) projects like "The Dead Hate the Living" or "The Dead Next Door" they don't chuck obvious, "aren't-we-cool-wink-wink" genre references at you. "The Convent" has got subtle references to "The Beyond", "Zombie", and others I'm sure I missed, plus, a "Sixteen Candles" gag! What more could you ask for?
Well, I would've asked for more gore. Except for the numerous, outstanding beheadings (and subsequent squirting neck stumps), most of the demon-attacks are shot in a shaky-cam, distorted style that makes it hard to see the details. If I was prone to cliches, I might use the words "hyper-kinetic" or "frenetic" to describe the film's style, but I'm not, so I won't. Still, this movie has much more splat-sticky maulings than any other flick on the market today, and the demon make-up is unique and creative. This movie even makes day-glow colors look cool (something Joel Schumaker couldn't do despite his huge "Batman & Robin" budget). Another minor complaint is that the movie is almost too fast paced and seems hurried and choppy in places. The kick-ass opening scene (in which a gal blows away some pious puss-faces to the chords of Lesley's Gore's immortal "You Don't Own Me") is edited like a movie trailer, and the film's climax seems rushed. Instead of a slam-bang explosive finale we're treated to some indecipherable computer effects that seem to be inserted as a placeholder until real effects became available. But those are minor caveats. Sure, this is no "Dead Alive" or "Re-Animator", but it is superior to most other recent horror offerings in every department- script, cast, make-up effects, you name it.
The fact that this momentous motion picture cannot find a national theatrical distributor proves how out of touch some movie studios are with horror fans. I'm sure no dime would be spared to promote another brain-dead "I Know What You Did Last Summer" sequel. So catch this movie wherever and whenever you can, preferably in a theater full of people. You'll be oh so glad you did.
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