FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 13, 2006

I Heart: The Convent

It's 1959. A young woman in sunglasses, Christine, walks into the St Francis Boarding School for Girls to the strains of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me". She's got a shotgun, a can of gasoline, and a lit cigarette. She uses the shotgun to blow away all the nuns and the priest, than sets the convent on fire.

40 years later, as can be expected, a group of kids breaks into the condemned convent for wacky teenage hijinks. As can also be expected, the evil of the convent is soon unleashed (in the form of fluorescent zombie nuns...yeah, read that again and you'll have an inkling why I heart this movie so much) and things quickly turn to shit. It's up to Christine and her shotgun to set things right for good.

Oh dear god, I love The Convent (2000). It perfectly skirts the line between horror and comedy and has a decidedly 80s vibe to it. I don't mean it feels dated or it's trying to emulate an era superficially (as the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did)- I mean it's got that balls-out, over-the-top, ludicrous fun vibe of flicks from that era, like Night of the Demons, Dead Alive, and Evil Dead. It takes its non-seriousness completely seriously...does that makes sense? It makes sense to me.

While The Convent is certainly a movie to watch with your friends over a few beers, there's a huge amount of originality and skill lurking beneath that fine patina of cheese. Director Mike Mendez employs some clever camera tricks that are never too clever- the style fits the substance. Film is sped up and slowed down, the zombie nuns move in a jerky style and titter like chipmunks...and it works. The opening sequence, where Christine lays down the law in the chapel, is beautifully shot and synched up nicely with the soundtrack. There's insane amounts of gore- not realistic gore that will make you cringe (a la Fulci), but rather crazy silly exploding head-style gore that doesn't always look real. I'd love to see him tackle a more straightforward horror film to see what he'd come up with.

And dammit, Chaton Anderson's script is funny. From the shroom-induced hallucination scene to the inept suburban satanists (with their "dagger of despair"), the movie is a good time throughout. One of my favorite sequences is a flashback to 1959, wherein Christine tells the story of how the nuns at the convent originally became possessed. Everyone in the school knew something wasn't right, but business continued on as normal. The nuns,, they sure were acting weird! It's hilarious.

What really swings The Convent clearly into "I Heart" territory is the inspired casting of Adrienne Barbeau as adult Christine. She's stated in interviews that Christine, along with Wilma in Creepshow, is a favorite role in her long career. It's obvious that she's having an absolute blast as the foul-mouthed, cranky, tough woman who's ready to drive her motorcycle into a nest of day-glo zombie nuns to heave some molotov cocktails and end their reign of terror.
Every five years or so you stupid kids think it'd be great fun to break into the convent and see where it all happened. Then when all hell breaks loose, you come lookin' for the chick who started it. Well, fuck that noise!
God bless that woman.

Simply put, The Convent has it all: whiskey, flaming nuns, Lesley Gore, baseball bats, day-glo makeup, sawed-off shotguns, molotov cocktails, exploding heads, virgin sacrifices ("They fuckin' love virgins! Goddamn demons- it's always something with a virgin!")...the list goes on. I mean, if a leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle-riding, machete-wielding, foul-mouthed Adrienne Barbeau isn't enough for you, then what is? What could be? What more could you possibly want from a movie, people??


Anonymous said...

Oh man, I've been wanting to see this movie for years now. I guess I'm gonna have to break down and order it from Amazon. I've almost done it a few times, but I always talk myself out of it. Now, I have some personal testimony to base my decision on...

Anonymous said...

That "Hail Satan" picture did it for me. After laughing that hard I can't wait to see The Convent.

Dan said...

Woah, thanks for the recommendation. Have you seen Lucky McKee's The Woods yet? It sounds like it definitely doesn't have as much Fu as The Convent but I thought it was a decent watch.

Stacie Ponder said...

This movie is AT THE LEAST worth a rental. I almost made it a film club choice, even. I LOVE IT. Josh, the "Hail Satan" bit is one of my favorite parts.

The Convent rocks, and it rocks HARD!

CRwM said...

Holy Mother of Jesus Flores, the guy who manages the Key Foods at the end of the block! This description alone is better than the last two or three movies I've seen.

Plus Lesley "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" Gore!

It's like the makers of The Convent can see into my dreams.

Anonymous said...

2 things:
First, the wife of a friend of mine played one of the, unfortunately uncredited, silent zombie nuns in this picture! She has no lines, appearing mysteriously in the background in full makeup, if I remember correctly. Her connection to the film was that her boyfriend, at the time, was a member of the cast.

Second, I believe Mike Mendez directed one of the films in this upcoming weekend's "Horrorfest/8 Films 2 Die 4" marathon that's hitting select theaters around the country. Unfortunately, I can't remember which movie it is. Personally, hope to get my shit together and check out some of these films... or at least one of them, because the trailers look pretty damn cool!

Anonymous said...

Watched this after reading about it here and LOVED it!! Dayglo zombie nuns totally rule!

Realized after the fact that it was from Mike Mendez, who is also responsible for the wonderful "Feast," which if you haven't seen yet, should definitely be on your list.

Anonymous said...

Oh man - I must've been on crack when I wrote that. Mendez did Gravedancers, not Feast. I know. I should be drawn and quartered.

Anonymous said...

Hey Stacie I read your comments on this film
awhile back on your AMC blog. I think it was just a
quick mention on Barbeau's performance.

I just watched this last night and I woke my
roommate from all of my insane cacklings over
this fuckin' brilliant send-up. The two queenie
goth guys were so funny. Unreal. Anyway
wanted to say thanks for reccing this film.

Prospero said...

This immediately went on my Netflix queue. I adore Adrianne and Billie is certainly my favorite role of hers. Can't wait to see it. Thanks, Stacy!

Hank said...

I have to disagree that the jerky sped-up/slowed-down nun motions worked ... and I must have missed the "Hail Satan" part because I was so bored out of my skull and going "When the fuck does my girl Adrienne show up"?? I did manage to not tear my eyeballs from their sockets until Adrienne made her appearance and saved the movie. At least, her part of it. I own this movie now (I have a strict policy of buying all Adrienne Barbeau movies sight unseen), but I have to admit I have never watched the first hour a second time.

Anonymous said...

also coolio is in this movie. just sayin.