Killer Nun (1979)

APRIL 20, 2012


With a title like Killer Nun (or Suor Omicidi, its Italian moniker), I was expecting something a little more exploitative and fun than the film actually delivered, and I hope someone can point me to a better "nunsploitation" movie to enjoy - with only a year of HMAD left, I can't imagine the opportunity or drive to see too many others in this most peculiar sub-genre will arise. But a man shouldn't go through life without seeing one really good nunsploitation movie. Jesus even said so.

Now before anyone gets on my ass for making a sacrilegious joke, I will remind you that I went to Catholic school for 8 years; uncomfortable shirt, ugly green tie, excessive mass going... the works. I was also referred to as an idiot by one of the nuns because I was/am left-handed, and one of them whipped a piece of chalk at me for an offense I can no longer recall, but most certainly didn't involve risking injury to another human being. In other words, I understand and respect the religion and those who devote their lives to it, but let's just say I wasn't exactly enamored by my perception of it during my formative years.

Thus, I was excited about the idea of a movie where the nun actually was the villain I perceived a few of them as, instead of a "sub-antagonist" like in Silent Night Deadly Night, where Mother Superior is a horrid nasty woman but it's really the killer Santa that may kill a character we care about. But alas, the movie is actually more a giallo, where the killer may or may NOT be our main character, Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg), who had a brain surgery early on and is hooked on morphine. Is she killing people in a drug induced haze? Is someone trying to frame her? More importantly: will this movie ever get entertaining enough to care?

Well, yeah, in the last 20 minutes, when this movie's version of a killing spree finally begins. Until then it's just an endless and snail-paced account of Gertrude more or less losing her shit, which gets tiresome after a while as there's really nothing else to the plot. There aren't any interesting characters, there's very little mystery (it's obviously either Gertrude or one other character), and even the occasional interesting bits go on for so long that they just become as obnoxious as everything else. At one point a crippled guy is relieved of his crutches and has to make his way up the stairs, and this goes on for what seems like 4 full minutes. Even if this was our hero it would be in dire need of an edit; that he's a rather anonymous character just makes it all the more excruciating.

It's also a very disjointed film; plot points are introduced with a shrug, other things (like the guy on the stairs) go on forever when they could have been cut entirely. Writer/director Giulio Berruti never worked on another narrative film after this as far as I can tell, and it's not hard to see why he wasn't much in demand. It's technically proficient, I guess, but there's no soul to it - it's just THERE. The most interesting elements are subdued - the religious angle doesn't even really have a bearing on anything; it might as well have been set in a hospital or nursing home, since that's what it resembles anyway.

Indeed, the old folks that Gertrude is supposed to be caring for provide the best parts of the flick. The highlight of the film is when she yells at one for taking out her dentures at the dinner table and proceeds to smash the things into bits as the old lady cries - THAT'S the sort of behavior I expect from all nuns, let alone one named a Killer by the film's title! A few of them get knocked off in the final reel, where Berruti finally remembered what kind of movie he was making and offs like 4 people in 20 minutes, with some of that Giallo flare that had been absent throughout the film. Even though it didn't make a lick of sense, I quite liked when Gertrude looks above her and sees a corpse dangling, blood dripping over her as she screams. And of course, the rope holding the body snaps and the body comes down. Alas, Berruti than haphazardly cuts to the next scene, killing the moment.

See that's the thing - it's like he figured the title (which translates to Sister Murders - close enough) and maybe a scene or two were enough for an audience to accept the film. No! You gotta commit to your killer nun movie! I mean, if you cheat on your diet, you don't just nibble some cake or an Oreo - you eat half a goddamn pie and wash it down with a milkshake. There's only enough bad taste and depravity here to justify maybe 20 minutes of boredom, when there's close to 75. But at the same time, those bits of nuttiness keep this from ever being taken seriously, so it just ends up satisfying me on either level.

I was happy with the interview with Berruti, however. In the disc's sole extra, he talks a bit about the cast and how the movie WAS actually based on a real person; a nun who was stealing from the old folks she was hired to care for. He also tells a funny anecdote about how they tricked a real convent into letting them film there by showing them fake script pages, and fiddling with lights and camera setups if a priest came over to see what they were doing (so he'd just get bored and leave). He's not as candid as some of these other Italian guys; he has nothing but nice things to say about everyone - the closest he gets to "dishing dirt" is saying that one of the supporting actresses didn't understand some of her character's actions, which is nothing. But it's a good interview nonetheless, and I'm glad Berruti has opted to stick to documentaries as he seems much more comfortable doing those (though it's odd none of them have found their way to his IMDb page, which stops which this film).

What say you?


  1. I haven't seen it but:

  2. I've seen a good dozen of them and nothing beats or comes even close to the fun and batshit craziness of School of the Holy Beast. I'm probably including a lot of normal exploitation movies in this, with or without nuns.


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