Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Convent (USA, 2000)

Mendez made a slight ripple in the sea of blood & guts trash filmmaking in 1996 with his film Killers. An odd mixture of Natural Born Killers (1994 / trailer) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996 / trailer), Killers got boring very quickly after its excellent opening scene of the two brothers shooting their parents apart to the droning sound of Iron Butterfly's classic In-A-God-A-Vida. In The Convent (2000), his over-the-top splatter fest from the turn of this century, Mendez once again starts his film off with a blood and guts assault, this time to the strains of Leslie Gore singing You Don't Own Me. 

The opening sequence, filmed in a slow-motion, style-conscious manner similar to what one finds in many of Brian de Palma's movies, is grand to say the least. The Convent starts off with a Bang! Bang! Bang! in 1960 with Christine, a shade-wearing and cigarette-smoking babe in a school uniform, walking into the chapel of St. Francis Boarding School for Girls where, in a ballet of excesses, she promptly attacks all the nuns with a baseball bat, sets them afire, and then blows them away with a double-barreled shotgun. Yo! Watch that blood splatter! Thing is, in comparison to what comes later, the film's opening scene is almost tame.
Forty years later, as a prank a group of idiotic and mostly unlikable college students break into the convent and, when one of them ends up getting sacrificed by a group of Satanists there, a ton of demons are released that slaughter and possess everyone one by one. Sound familiar? Sure, think Evil Dead (1983) or Evil Dead II (1987 / trailer), some other two dozen films or, most directly, Lamerto Bava's legendary Demons (1986) and its trashy sequels (official and unofficial). But instead of having the demons taking over the teens one by one in some forest log cabin, movie theater or high-rise, the demons decimate the kids in a deserted school for girls and, once they've pretty much taken everyone over, dress themselves in nun's habits and try to raise the son of the devil.
Somewhere along the line while writing The Convent, scriptwriter Chaton Anderson must have watched dozens of strong-hero-kicks-butt films like Rambo I / First Blood (1982 / trailer), Terminator (1984 / trailer), Terminator II: Judgement Day (1991 / trailer) and especially Aliens (1986 / trailer), for the last third of the film reintroduces the adult Christine (Adrienne Barbeau) as a total demon-asskicker. Dressed in skintight jeans and a leather jacket, and decked out with shotguns and a machete, she motorcycles into the convent and what she doesn't shoot or decapitate, she burns. Barbeau tosses off her characterization of the adult Christine with considerable aplomb: too intelligent not to know what kind of film she is in, she places her tongue so deeply in her cheek and rips through her role with such carelessness that her performance is a joy to watch.
The film itself might not be a joy, but it is a feverish dance of excessive blood and guts, a never-ending assault of violence taken to such extremes that for most of the film one cannot stop laughing. First heads gets smashed like melons in doorways, dicks get bitten off, and faces get torn off, then demonic nuns get multiple gunshot wounds and their necks spurt like never-ending fountains when beheaded. The Convent is without a doubt cheap and sleazy splatter and lacks any and all social consciousness or content—in other words, a perfect film for a six-pack and bong. For, even if the story is often predictable and the characters mostly lame, some of the dialogue and situations are sublimely hilarious.
Aside from Christine, the only likable and seemingly intelligent person in the movie is the hot-looking goth chic Mo (Megahn Perry), who spouts some of the best lines in the flick before she eventually becomes the first to be infected. Her gal-pal eventually becomes the movie's nominal heroine once Mo goes ultra-violet and ultra-violent and starts biting out tongues. Undoubtedly the most inanely surreal scene is that in which one of two male virgins tied to the sacrificial alter attempts to have sex with the recalcitrant other so as to lose their virginity and become undesirable as sacrifices. The film's biggest flaws, if one can even talk about a film like this having flaws, are the excessive length of the scenes in which the Satanists argue about who is going to do the sacrificing and the guest appearance of Coolio as Officer Starkey. The rapper is seen twice in The Convent, both interludes being the most superfluous scenes in the flick, seemingly written not out of expository need but rather to simply permit a special guest appearance, much like Danny DeVito's equally meaningless and unfunny character in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! (1996 / trailer). 
All that aside, The Convent is a quick and bloody ride with no redeeming values but more than enough laughs and innards, full of the tasteless blood-drenched humor that works best when seen with a group of drunken and stoned buddies. Love that scene in which the cheerleader first gets her face pulled off and then sprouts demon's horns!

1 comment:

Dan said...

Sounds like I dug this one more than you but totally agree about the "hot-looking Goth". I'm going to have to track down GRAVEDANCERS, especially since Meghan Perry turns up in it!

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