March 26, 2006

Grab popcorn and a Rosary, it's movie review time!

Sometimes you see a thing that you simply must have. For a year I made almost weekly visits to a music store in Grand Forks, North Dakota to sit and play "my" guitar while I saved the money to buy it (the one on the right).

That's kind of an extreme example, but recently I had a mini version of that emotion over a movie (surprise, surprise), and of course I'm going to tell you all about it.

Now this category isn't called "Cult Flicks" for nothing, and if you've visited before you already know that I love B-movies and old horror and things a little (or a lot) off of the beaten path. This film certainly falls into the last category. Before I tell you about it though, I'd like to take a moment to give a little background on a type of these crappy movies that I love so much.

Exploitation films are movies designed to appeal to those looking for things like nudity and/or gore. Back in the 30's and 40's, nudist camp "documentaries" filled the bill, as did "danger of drugs" movies. In the 50's Swedish "blue" movies found their niche. Some makers soon realized that actual product quality was optional as long as plenty of bare breasts or simulated gruesome violence was on display, so true exploitation flicks are always low budget and almost always feature rotten acting, directing, dialogue, etc. Go through the Rocket Jones Cult Flicks archives, and you'll find other reviews of just these types of films. Yes, I am a fan.

Within the exploitation umbrella, there are subgenres. Sexploitation movies focused on nudity and softcore porn - Russ Meyer was one leading director - and so-called Blaxploitation movies aimed at the African American audience (Abby, aka "the black Exorcist" is a fine example, although films like Shaft and Foxy Brown are much better known). There were gory cannibal movies and mondo "documentaries" that went for shock valuie by being about taboo subjects (like Toys Are Not For Children which explored psychotic incestual themes). Women in prison movies were popular, and included the sub-subgenre of Nazi women prison movies. I've got my eye on a couple of Hixsploitation collections, just to round out my library of crappy films. That wikipedia link above is a nice little introduction to the concept.

"Director Norifumi Suzuki doesn't have a clue about Christianity, but his delirious visual style is reminiscent of 60s Italian horror in its rich colors and hysterical zooming"
--Chicago Reader

So by now you've gathered that School of the Holy Beast is an exploitation film, and it's of a type I'd heard of but never seen before: nunsploitation. Actually, that was only one reason why I couldn't resist it, the other being that I never knew that any nunsploitation flicks were made anywhere but Europe. This unusual movie was made in Japan! Nunsploitation movies are generally set in a convent with plenty of nudity, sex, and frequent appearances by sleazy priests because apparently, unbeknownst to me, every nun is not a lesbian (kidding!). This type of movie is also critical of the Catholic Church and it's policies.

So what do we have here? The movie starts off with a girl named Maya having one helluva great day. She enjoys a hockey game, does some shopping, picks up a guy and later sleeps with him. When he finally asks her name (pillow talk!), she tells him that tomorrow she enters the abbey to become a nun.

Maya isn't particularly devout, instead she's on a private mission to discover how her mother died in that same convent eighteen years before. Along the way she manages to unravel a long-held secret and finds her answers. She also sneaks a couple of guys into the convent to gang rape the Mother Superior (who doesn't fight very hard once it's begun. I guess falling asleep to her private porn collection might have made her a bit receptive). There are scenes of drugs, self-flagellation, bondage, blasphemy; in other words, everything you'd expect from the Church (kidding!). In the end the bad guys all get what's coming to them, and you're left sitting there thinking "wow".

School of the Holy Beast

Unlike the typical trashy exploitation movie, this film is beautifully acted and full of spectacular imagery. One memorable scene involves Maya being punished by being whipped with bunches of long stem roses. The thorns draw blood of course, and before long each punishing stroke results in a cascade of slow motion rose petals in a halo around Maya. Uncomfortable to watch, but undeniably beautiful.

This movie far exceeded my expectations, and it's worth seeing. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Besides, how can you resist two topless nuns involved in a whip fight?

Posted by Ted at March 26, 2006 10:02 AM | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Ted, I'm always learning new things from you. Nunsploitation, who'd've thunk it?

Posted by: nic at March 26, 2006 06:45 PM

I refuse to leave a comment to this post. It would only humiliate both of us.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at March 28, 2006 01:59 AM

Spork: huh?

Posted by: Ted at March 28, 2006 08:22 AM

Heh. I knew you'd say that. Okay, I'll leave a comment:

That chick getting whipped by the sado-nuns with thorny rose stems as the petals float wistfully to the floor? She's pretty. :)

Posted by: Tuning Spork at March 28, 2006 12:37 PM
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