There's been an eerie rise in the number of nun related horror films lately, with the popularity of films like The Nun and St. Agatha captivating viewers of who find appreciation in the dark side of the religious. The latest contender to hit streaming services recently is THE CONVENT, a twisted tale directed by Paul Hyett that will make you cringe, laugh, and will undoubtedly shock you with the amount of gore as it sneaks up on you like a thief in the night. The Convent most certainly is not the easy-going horror that the trailer makes it out to be, and it's hard to even figure out where this film sits: one moment it feels quite serious, the next its a jump scare demon flick, then before you know it there's blood, guts and gore all over the fucking convent! It's this unpredictability and sometimes outrageous-ness that makes The Convent the sensational film it turned out to be, and a must-see movie for those who enjoy a good, blasphemous twist on faith.
Originally titled "Heretiks," The Convent follows the story of young Persephone (played by Hannah Arterton) who is found guilty by the court of witchcraft in 17th century England. As she is sentenced to death, a stern religious figurehead referred to only as Reverend Mother (Clare Higgins) demands the court releases Persephone to her custody, where she will serve penance back at the convent that she runs with other girls in situations like Persephones'. Upon her arrival, Persephone can already sense there is something... off about the place, as it feels more like a prison than it does a religious institution. She joins her new sisters in daily chores and demands of Reverend Mother and her staff, but it isn't long before the horrors that dwell within the walls of the convent begin to show themselves to Persephone, including a sinister sickness that is plaguing the women of the convent. From here, things only begin to go downhill as more and more sisters succumb to the illness, and it is then that the reasoning behind all of the evil in such a holy place lurks within their hallways. Will Persephone and her sisters find a way to escape the malevolence, or will they too find themselves in a freshly dug grave?
From the get-go, I wasn't exactly sure where this film was going to take us; would it be a demon film, an evil nun film, a serious film, a The Nun rip-off? And as the film progressed, it kinda feels like it took the shape of all of those characteristics at some point, except maybe The Nun rip off bit. At the beginning, there's definitely this dark cloud that surrounds Persephone, and you can feel the pain and sorrow that lives within her as she tries to embrace her new life as a sister at the convent. But you'll find she's utterly displeased at the situation, and as she begins to open up to some of the other women, the story of her dark past sheds light on why she has this feeling of dread in her eyes. But the insanity she's about to endure will certainly put her faith to the test as women her age succumb to this bizarre plague that's haunting the convent that is literally causing her fellow sisters to rip their own eyeballs out of their fucking sockets; you read that right, there's a scene that will forever live in the back of my head of a nun yanking her eyes out and displaying them in her palms, almost as if it was an offering to a higher being. It's from this moment on in the film that the death, blood-splatter and gore just doesn't let up. The back story of Reverend Mother and her dark history comes to light, and it's a pretty wicked story that translated really well to the big screen. Honestly, the story telling overall was pretty great and it made for a pretty fantastic film that definitely feels darker than the trailer made it out to be. The torturous ways of Reverend Mother sets a dreadful overtone to every scene she's in, and it will no doubt make you question her relationship with God in the first place. But unfortunately for Persephone and her friends, the evil doesn't end with Reverend Mother, as they soon find out.
While it takes a short while to get going, once it does get going, it doesn't quit and the going gets mighty good. There's plenty of "god damn" moments that will leave you cringing at the screen and the special effects (mostly all of the blood, and there's a good amount of it) look pretty legitimate and realistic, which only adds to the wow factor of the film. The cast did a totally killer job as they ran through emotions and forms (this will make sense when you see the movie) and you'd be lying if you said Revered Mother didn't freak you out once or twice with her rage-filled intolerance of pretty much everything. I'd be lying if I said that the film didn't have its weak points, but they are so few and far between that it's almost not worth noting, to be quite honest. My one word of advice is that if you aren't down with slightly supernatural or demon-esque movies, maybe stay away from The Convent because you probably wont enjoy this as much; however, for those of you who don't mind a little supernatural elements (or maybe even an appearance of our boy Satan himself), The Convent is one you won't want to miss. It's got enough awesome to warrant a rental, and enough craziness to keep your attention during its hour and a half run time. Readers of Soulless Cult will know that I love me a good religion-related horror, and The Convent has just enough of it to deliver an excellent execution and to warrant a final verdict that says you gotta check this one out. And make sure you keep watching past the credits, there's a little something extra you're probably going to want to see. Check this one out!