April 30, 2007

Cinema Macabre, Volume 2: Satanico Pandemonium

Last month, Ian Woolstencroft, in association with Blogcritics Online Magazine debuted the new monthly feature, Cinema Macabre. It is a collection of brief horror film reviews, as contributed by Ian, myself, and other contributors in the BC world. Below is my entry to the second edition of the feature, the 1975 nunsploitation film, Satanico Pandemonium. Be sure to check out the other contributions in:
Cinema Macabre Issue 2: Kinky Nuns, Otherworldly Kids, Radioactive Jelly-Men And A Zombie Soldier Await You

Satanico Pandemonium (1975)
Man, they made some crazy movies back in the day. Back in the 1970's there was a short lived subgenre callen "nunsploitation." Never heard of it? Well, I have to admit that I heard about it a long time ago, but this was my first foray into the genre. I have read that it was kicked off by Ken Russell's 1971 film The Devils. This one came a few years later and hails from the country of Mexico. If you are wondering what the ingredients of a nunsploitation film are, always factor in nuns (of course), lesbian sex, blood, gore, and a serious dose of weirdness.

Cecilia Pezet stars as Sister Maria, who spends much of her time in various stages of undress. Before we get to the stripping, we are first introduced to Sister Maria as she walks through the garden at the convent, picking flowers. On her jaunt she comes across a strange naked man who offers her an apple. Hmmmm, I wonder who that could be? It is, of course, the devil in the flesh, there to tempt her and lure her to the darkside. This leads Maria to a crisis of faith as her spirituality is tested. In an attempt to discourage her failing faith, she goes to her room, promptly removes the tophalf of her clothes, ties a belt of thorns around her waist and flagellates herself with a think leather whip. So tell me, are you interested yet?

Despite her attempts to stay on the straight and narrow, she quickly finds herself succombing to her repressed desires. She attempts to seduce her fellow nuns, as well as a local farmboy, who rejects her, leading to her darker murderous desires. The film builds to a point where there is no turning back, although you are left wondering if it was a dream, or was she truly visited by Lucifer?

I found that the movie did not go quite as far as I had expected, although it is still rather twisted subject matter. It strikes me as a low budget production, although it looks great with its lush colors and nice use of shadows. It was directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares who did a good job with the fringe material. It is a movie that fans of exploitation style cinema should definitely look into. Satanico Pandemonium is rather slowly paced as it draws you into Maria's changing mental state. The film is carried squarely on the shoulders of Cecilia Pezet, she delivers a performance that is a combination of innocence and unbridled sexuality, a collision of opposites resulting in a performance that will hold your attention.

Check your beliefs at the door and slip into this notorious entry of nunsploitation, which, coincidentally, was the inspiration for Salma Hayek's character in From Dusk til Dawn.


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