Beginning with a prologue set in 1619 before moving slightly forward to 1659, The Convent is an old-fashioned piece of nunsploitation with no connection to a certain horror franchise. The third film from director Paul Hyett (The Seasoning House, Howl) draws from the likes of The Devils and The Other Hell and adds a touch of The Blood On Satan’s Claw to create the kind of period horror we don’t see that often these days.
Persephone (Hannah Arterton, Peripheral) has been brought up on charges of witchcraft. The Magistrate (Michael Ironside, Hellmington, The Fight Machine) of course, intends to sentence her to be burnt at the stake. However, Reverend Mother (Claire Higgins, Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II) steps in and has her placed in her convent. A place that provides purpose to the fallen.
However, once she’s there Persephone quickly senses something very wrong. Evil, in the form of The Diabolical (Ryan Oliva, Ghost Stories, Slaughterhouse Rulez) has also found a home here. Possession and damnation are sure to follow.
The Convent starts out as though it intends to be a moody, slow-burning piece but quickly picks up the pace. By the twenty-minute mark, the mysterious fever is plaguing the convent has people puking up blood. And it only gets messier from there. A massacre is recounted in flashback. Someone rips their own eyes out in a single, bloody take. You get the idea.
The film is blessed with the perfect setting for a horror film. A large brooding stone building, lit only with candles to provide plenty of dark corners and menacing shadows. It’s almost a character in its own right at times. Needless to say, this allows for some excellent jump scares as well as suspense. Especially in the final act when all hell starts to break loose.
For the most part, The Convent gets its setting right and looks properly olde English. Oddly both issues are from the film’s only two male cast members. For all his other talents Michael Ironside just does not sound like he belongs in the film’s era. On the other hand, Freddy Carter as Ellis looks to modern, to clean and pretty, to be a village lad in the 1600s.
Filmed and shown at festivals as Heretiks, and I would assume re-titled to avoid confusion with The Heretics, this is one of the best of the recent crop of evil nun films. There are some excellent makeup and gore, (no surprise as Hyett started out as an effects man) to add icing to the cake. The CGI, admittedly, is another story. Thankfully there’s not much of it.
The Convent is available via Vertical Entertainment.