Shock-O-Rama: The Convent (Mania.com)

By:Chuck Francisco
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Many are the days that we long for foods which we know are atrociously bad for us (I'll take a whole Blooming' Onion please!). Some find the temptation more alluring than others, who can resist and (more often then not) choose a healthier, more substantial meal. This same struggle plays itself out among the masses of movie goers ever single day. Do we watch the healthier, brain feeding version of cinematic enlightenment, or do we dumpster dive for the cast off film french fries? Most often, we settle for something that's not Z-grade atrocious or Bergman brilliant. It's the mainstay of cinema where the masses dwell, while here at Shock-O-Rama we temp you into indulging your schlocky sweet tooth (though you may want to thoroughly brush them afterwards). Today's film is a very unknown horror comedy from 2000, which has seen incredibly divisive reaction from everyone I've exposed it to. Some refer to it as a Night of the Demons rip off; that's a disingenuous slight common among those who didn't watch it under the best of conditions (with friends; for laughs).
 
The Convent (2000, Mike Mendez) deals with the college age shenanigans of our motley cardboard protagonists. Each of them is completely a stereotype, designed to quickly slot them into broad characterization so that we can stop focusing on their "development", and instead focus on the tongue in cheek comedy portrayed around them. We aren't dealing with high art; there's no Oscar pretension. What we are dealt are horny teens on drugs, hanging in a convent left abandoned after a schoolgirl burnt the nuns alive decades before. We spend our time with sexually confused pseudo satanists, corrupt campus cops Coolio and Bill Moseley, and Adrienne Barbeau channeling Sarah Connor (complete with the bad attitude and weapons to back it up). The effects are purposefully hyper stylized, with demon blood giving off more bioluminescence than an ecstasy dosed raver . Like most of the elements of this film, it could easily come off as corny, but it's sold so unflinchingly that we can allow ourselves to revel in the fun they had making this flick.
 
The brittle connective tissue of the plot revolves around demons who can take possession of murder victims one at a time. Once they've gained control of enough hosts, their plan is to sacrifice a virgin via an unholy mass, giving life to the anti-Christ. They were stopped in the 50's by Christine, one of the convent's orphans from whom they stole a new born. A delightful combination of wacky accidents reawakens the demons, who again begin to possess any nearby bodies (our gaggle of college coeds). All of this is played to the hilt of hilarity, with punchy comedic timing, and a cast that's pretty savvy to the zingers they're delivering. 
 
For all of the interesting pieces comprising The Convent's DNA, it's remained largely obscure for two reasons. Firstly, despite good showings at Sundance Film Festival, the Dead by Dawn Edinburgh Horror Film Festival, and a number of others, production company Alpine Pictures could not secure a North American distributor. Right when American audiences needed something new in horror, this twist in a throwback's outfit never got a chance. It did modestly well oversees in Spain and Germany, then received a quiet DVD release from Lion's Gate in 2001. To my knowledge, there have only been two public screenings of The Convent in America; March 16, 2001 at the now defunct Hoyt's theater of Pennsauken, NJ, and then in November of 2009 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. Given the geek cred doled out for having actually seen rare fare, weekly Shock-O-Rama readers should be chomping at the bit AND salivating all over their vintage Star Wars t-shirts right about now. If I were an Xbox Live game, you would totally get a 100 point achievement for finding and viewing The Convent.

 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers need to shout the praises of this unique offering from the peaks and valleys of the Internet. Likewise, I'd love to hear from you true believers who have indulged themselves on the meat of demonic nunsploitation. Do you agree that this is a fun film, worthy of spreading like a zombie plague? If you've already seen it, I'd recommend a low budget Tiffany Shepis vehicle in the same vein (though not as much fun), The Hazing. If you haven't experienced The Convent, acquire a copy, gather your group, and give it a go! See you at the movies!
 
Watch the first five minutes of The Convent here; if this doesn't sell the sizzle to you, nothing I can say will.

 

And if you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights andColonial Cult Cinema. You can hear him on awesome podcast You've Got Geek or follow him out onTwitter.



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