APRIL 13, 2009
It must have been in 2000 or maybe 2001 when my good friend Joe Canistro told me about a sub-genre I had no idea existed: Nunsploitation. It was at a Fangoria convention, and he had just purchased one such film (the title escapes me) and gave me a brief summary of what constituted a Nunsploitation film (in short, nuns either killing or being killed). Being a product of Catholic school (grades 1-8 anyway), I very much liked the idea of combining nuns and murder. So interested, in fact, that it took me 8 or 9 years to finally watch one: The Other Hell (Italian: L'altro Inferno).
Bruno Mattei is one of those filmmakers who I often read about in places like Rue Morgue, and this is also my introduction to him. When I am seeing a filmmaker or type of film for the first time, I actually want to think its OK. I don't want to see the absolute best the genre or filmmaker has to offer (i.e. - if I had never seen a John Carpenter film, I wouldn't want to start with Halloween, as it would raise my expectations too high for his other output. The Fog or Christine would be good though.), nor do I want the worst, as I wouldn't be inspired to bother with it/them again. Thus, I would be pretty happy if The Other Hell fit the bill. I didn't love it, but I was more or less entertained by the nonsense unfolding before my eyes.
Now, I've seen enough Italian films to know that they simply don't care about logical sense, which means that when a scene that takes place in a convent features a dozen or so mannequins hanging from the ceiling for no discernible reason, I don't think much of it. It looks cool, and it's one of the creepier moments in the film, so who cares if it doesn't make a lick of sense that a convent would have a room like that.
But even I had to laugh/pause at a line about 2/3s of the way through the movie. By this point, I'd say at least a half dozen folks have been killed, and the murders are being investigated by a priest (Carlo De Mejo, who literally just walked in from Gates Of Hell). And it didn't even cross my mind until someone mentions that if there's another murder that the police might have to be brought in - why is a priest investigating this stuff? Obviously he has a connection to the players in the tale, but what exactly qualifies him to identify a murderer without the aid of police? Also, what are they doing with the bodies that is keeping the police from finding out about it in the first place? Had they never even mentioned the cops, I probably never would have even given it any thought.
However, beyond the complete disregard for real world logic, it's a fun movie. Nuns are eviscerated, dogs eat a guy's hand, the devil is represented as a blinking red light, the bad nun has a full blown mad scientist's laboratory (complete with beakers filled with bright green and red fluid), and a priest is immolated. Someone's got issues, and I enjoy seeing them try to work them out. And the ending seems to suggest that 95% of the way through the first draft, writer Claudio Fragasso took in a viewing of Zombi and decided to work some undead elements into his script without bothering to rewrite the previous 80 pages. Again, none of this is necessarily a bad thing. The Goblin score is also terrific, though it doesn't quite fit with the film at times (I wasn't surprised to learn it was recycled from another film).
The DVD comes with a pair of interviews, one in Italian with Mattei (seemingly shot in his garage) and the other in English with De Mejo. Mattei's is kind of dull, but De Mejo's is pretty interesting, because he seemingly goes out of his way to talk about anything but the movie. The interviewer will ask him about a certain co-star, and he'll spend the next minute or so discussing their other movies and whether or not he still talks to them. The longest he stays on subject is when he discusses his death scene, mainly because he seems to be discovering for the first time that his character is presumed to be dead. There are also a handful of trailers for this and other Italian horrors. As always, the film's trailer spoils most of the scares/deaths while not even making an attempt to explain the film's plot.
In closing, please recommend more from both the nunsploitation genre, as well as Mattei. Good or bad is of no concern, as long as they are interesting. Or have some backroom nun on priest action, of which this particular film offers none.
What say you?