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After the mysterious death of her mother, a young woman chooses to enter a convent to find out what happened. As soon as the door closes to the nunnery, the nuns start torturing the woman. Also, the woman has to deal with a God-hating archbishop and a lesbian mother superior. Written by
You'd be forgiven for thinking a Japanese nunsploit flick helmed by snazzmeister Norifumi Suzuki would be cheap schlock with shower scenes to pad out the running time. No, this is a well made film as much concerned with inverting and subverting religious imagery as it is with aesthetics and sensuality. Certain set-pieces stand out as a testament to that: a nun flagellated in slow motion with roses, rose petals falling all over her bloodied body, a procession of nuns holding candles walking through the convent's corridors, a church interior photographed like a Mario Bava set, a priest falling dead in the shape of an inverted cross, stabbed with one no less.
Although School of the Holy Beast is definitely blasphemous in the imagery it employs and the way those who preach God's word are portrayed (a convent hiding vice and corruption the perfect hiding ground), it's never outrageous enough to shock because everything is done with a sense of artful style that will have all but the most fundamendalist of christians accepting it for what it is. There are a couple of false notes, like the 'witch trial' scene where a nun suspected to be a witch is forcefed salt water then forced to sit upon an image of Christ; if she pees, she's a witch. The method is so medieval that it's hard to picture taking place in the contemporary world the movie is set. Overall the film is enjoyable, mildly violent and sleazy, with perhaps a dash of religious angst that comes out as juvenile, but in good taste and a worthwhile watch.
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