Today I watched Norifumi Suzuki’s School of the Holy Beast (1974)
Maya, a young woman played by Yumi Takigawa, joins a convent of nuns in Japan, but she is not joining out of faith. Maya’s mother died in this convent during child birth and the circumstances are more than a little mysterious. So Maya is here to investigate her past but what she discovers in the convent is more than she bargained for. As with most movie convents, it is actually festering in corruption and moral hypocrisy. There is sadistic torture, corrupt and lecherous priests, and more sexual repression than you can shake a stick at.
This is a slight diversion from the usual pinky violence fare, though it still shares the core themes of sexual rebellion and oppressive violence against women, and who doesn’t like nunsploitation? This is a prime example of that flavour of exploitation film, fully utilizing the oppressive setting to amplify it’s intense atmosphere. This is a dark and brooding film which is fitting for it’s near endless parade of catholic hypocrisy. The visual language is intense and aggressive amplifying the sadomasochism on display and creating some real tension throughout the film. This tension explodes in some very surreal and impactful imagery that makes the extreme content flow with a violent poetry.
School of the Holy Beast is one of the finest examples of nunsploitation there is. It has a wild sense of style that keeps it consistently exciting. It is both a gorgeous and grotesque film in equal measure, often both at once. It is also remarkably creative in how it meshes surreal imagery and torture into one strangely satisfying whole. This is one of the more cerebral pieces of nunsploitation and for that, comes highly recommended. 5/5