Should I Watch...? 'The Convent'
What's the big deal?
The Convent is a horror-comedy film released in 2000 and was directed by Mike Mendez. The film stars a number of B-movie actors alongside horror veteran Adrienne Barbeau and rapper Coolio and follows a group of teenagers attempting to spend the night in a supposedly haunted convent. The film is a small independent production that nevertheless received a cinema release in the UK—it would be released straight to DVD in most territories, which should tell you everything you need to know right there. In truth, the film feels more like a student production with laughable effects and terrible scares that simply don't work.
What's it about?
The film opens with a scene of bloody slaughter - a young Christine breaks into a convent and shoots every single nun present before setting the place on fire. Back in the modern day, the convent has long since been abandoned and it has become a popular place for various youths to break in and vandalise despite rumours of it being haunted. One such young woman, Clorissa, attempts to break in that night with her assorted friends for a night of drunken revelry and possible sexual shenanigans.
However, none of them banked on the convent being occupied by malevolent forces. One of the group, Mo, is kidnapped by a group of Satanists attempting to raise the dark lord himself but far greater evils are present - the spirits of the murdered nuns have been possessed and are intent on murdering anyone who defiles their precious convent. Clorissa barely escapes and soon realises that Christine is still their only hope...
Liam Kyle Sullivan
Release Date (UK)
10th July, 2000
Comedy (possibly), Fantasy, Horror
What's to like?
I have already explained my policy on movies that are laughably bad on other reviews, specifically Sharknado which this speculative effort mirrors quite closely. I can't subscribe to the philosophy that I should go easy on films that are often so clumsy or stupid just because they manage to raise a laugh. It feels like a betrayal of my own values to award a second star purely because this is an unholy mess from start to finish. Granted, the film has many moments that lovers of trash cinema will forever cherish such as demonic nuns that sound like giggling chipmunks and a Satanist cult leader whose voice clearly hasn't broken yet.
Much like the nadir of awful cinema The Room, one suspects that The Convent was retroactively called a comedy during the premier at the Sundance Film Festival when the audience were probably rolling in the aisles and straight for the exits. It may be an easy cop-out for this basic level of film-making but I'm prepared to run with the theory that this was more of an experiment on the part of director Mike Mendez, himself no stranger to pulp B-movie horrors like this. In truth, nobody will sit down and watch this objectively because to do so is futile - the film tanks on every level so badly that you spend more time laughing at it than with it.
- Coolio's appearance in just one scene (despite his prominent billing) is far from his only appearance in movies. He has also appeared in Dracula 3000 which has a prolonged stay on IMDb's Worst 100 Movies, notorious turkey Batman & Robin and originally appeared in Ben Affleck's Daredevil before his scenes were ultimately cut.
- Oakley Stevenson, who played the young Christine in the opening scene, was married for a time to director Mike Mendez. She would go on to become a costumer and stylist.
- At the time of writing, screenwriter Chaton Anderson is working on a prequel called The Devil's Convent presently in pre-production. No word yet on any release date but actor Kelly Mantle (who played Dickie-Boy) returns in a new role.
What's not to like?
I have no idea how high the budget was but if watching the film was any guide, I suspect that it wasn't much higher than the cost of a Happy Meal. The Convent is dogged by crude effects and makeup, pathetic acting from most of its cast and a script that feels confused and stuffed with too many bad ideas. The cast member who deserves any credit is Barbeau who is well aware of the level the material should have been pitched at - the rest feel like interchangeable store mannequins who are messily dispatched by the chipmunk-laughing demon nuns. Imagine a school production of something like A Nightmare On Elm Street and you're not far from the quality found in The Convent.
I know that I'm probably missing the point but I simply don't except that this was an intentional comedy. Satire possibly but not a comedy in the traditional sense. If it were a comedy then the cast would have played it more for laughs instead of earnestly screaming at the rubbish monsters. The lines would have been funnier, the action would have had some light relief and I might not be as unforgiving. People laugh at this film because it is truly dreadful, not because they want you to laugh at it.
Should I watch it?
Only if there was a gun to your head. Next!
Great For: snarky viewers, do-it-yourself commentaries, Bad Movie nights
Not So Great For: anyone looking for a horror, anyone looking for a comedy, anyone who paid to watch this (you know who you are!)
What else should I watch?
The problem with slasher horror like this is that it lives and died on the strength of its effects and because horror films are notoriously cheap to make, the effects are often overlooked. The original A Nightmare On Elm Street from 1984 looks laughably crude these days but despite this, Robert Englund's memorable portrayal of boogieman Freddy Krueger has since become iconic. So logically, the 2010 remake with Jackie Earle Haley taking over should have been better but sadly, they cocked it up by being an uninspired rerun of stagnant horror clichés.
No, if you want a proper horror film to chill the blood and scar your dreams then there is only one place to look - the Far East. Japanese horror has long been regarded as superior to anything cooked recently by Hollywood with films like Ring, Ju-On: The Curse and Dark Water becoming classic examples. My personal favourite is Audition, a genuinely haunting psycho-horror about a widowed film director auditioning for a new wife and falling for the least pleasant woman imaginable...
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