Sunday, December 27, 2015

We Will Have Nun Of These Bad Habits, Sister!!

Occasionally, if you are a fan of weird cinema, you stumble across a film that you can never really tell if it is a work of art or maybe just plain batshit insane. Art is great, but insanity certainly has its own appeal, if done right.

Alucarda is one of those movies. I originally saw it a number of years ago on VHS under the title Sisters of Satan, and it struck me as rather tame. In hindsight, I believe that version had been trimmed of some of the more shocking scenes. Maybe I was distracted or disappointed by realizing I had apparently rented a nunsploitation movie; it isn't my favorite genre (half-rung under Nazisploitation on my "don't care for that stuff" ladder).

One thing stuck with me from the film: Tina Romero as Alucarda. I think a small part of me fell instantly in love with her. Hey, I'm a guy, and she is mysterious and beautiful. Get over it. Still, that vague attraction led me to buy the wonderful Mondo Macabro DVD released a few years back. Oh my! The colors! The camerawork and lighting! The eardrum-numbing screaming!

The film begins with a young mother, who has just given birth to Alucarda, giving her still blood-covered child to a strange person with orders to deliver the child to the convent to be raised. No sooner than the door is closed to the chamber in which the mother remains, we hear growling of unseen forces that are approaching the woman. We do not see what happens as the film's opening credits kick in.

15 years later, a young woman named Justine (the beautiful Susana Kamini), whose last parent has just died, is dropped off at the convent/orphanage. She is roommates with Alucarda. Before you can say "invasion of personal space", Alucarda is assuring Justine they will be the best of friends, and we know that things are not going to end well.

After a strange encounter with gypsies, the girls unwittingly unleash the demonic spirits that had been sealed in the casket with Alucarda's mother, and The Devil is ready to play with his two new friends.

Much has been made of the anti-religious tone and imagery of the film, and it is definitely there. Torture of the young women to purge The Devil from them, group flagellation of all the members of the religious order who heard the words of blasphemy from the girls, and hysterical panic spreading through nuns each time someone says "The Devil" are just a few of the jabs taken at the religious here. What most don't say is that, ultimately, the power of faith is the only weapon the nuns and priests have that has any hope of saving them.

Juan Lopez Moctezuma directed this film outside the government-sanctioned film industry in Mexico. Whether that prompted him to include the ample amounts of nudity and blood to make it more marketable in the world market (he also shot it with the cast delivering their lines in English even though most of the dialogue sounds recorded in post-production) is a debatable issue. 

What is not debatable is the incredible job he did in bringing this wild tale of possession, friendship, faith, and horror to life. Odd touches like having the nuns wrapped in white, gauze-like cloth from head to toe, and having that cloth stained with what appears to be menstrual blood (the older the nun, the larger the stain seems to be) raises questions that are never addressed. The convent appears to literally built on the shoulders of who came before as we see what appears to be rotted bodies, often in a crucified pose, encased in the walls. These and other random images build an aura of a horrific fairy tale told by a lunatic.

The film itself moves at an amazingly brisk pace which keeps it from wearing out both the audience and its welcome. You get to see nuns bursting to flames, levitating, and sweating and crying blood. You get to see Tina Romero in her unclothed glory (as well as Susana Kamini). You get to see people burned by holy water, necks ripped out by human teeth, and a Satanic priestess smacked down by, I think, the power of prayer. Did I say that you get to see Tina Romero naked? It is worth mentioning a second time.

Both beautiful, in its own way, and outrageous, Alucarda is film that weird movie fans with very liberal religious attitudes will find worth watching, if not wanting to own for repeat viewing.

All I can say is that The Devil certainly has good taste when it comes to beautiful women.

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