|A demon gets back in the habit in Mike Mendez's The Convent (2000).|
As a general rule, I like my gore served with a side of humor. Photo-realistic depictions of violent atrocity just don't entertain me. Luckily, the comedic gore movie is almost a sub-genre unto itself. I originally committed to posting about Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) for this year's Gore-A-Thon, owing largely to the fact that I covered The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) last year. Then I re-watched Leatherface, and I reminded myself that it's actually not very gory. Worse, it's not very entertaining. I proceeded to pore over my movie collection looking for a moist and meaty alternative. Fortunately, I unearthed my copy of director Mike Mendez's The Convent (2000), a riotously entertaining throwback to the comedic gore greats of the eighties. I'm pretty sure I heard a choir of angels singing as I pulled the disc from my movie vault.
|The nuns at the St. Francis Boarding School want the students to pledge allegiance to their Dark Lord.|
Director Mike Mendez is a talent I wish was afforded the opportunity to be more prolific. Though I've yet to lay my hands on Killers (1996, aka Real Killers), his recent Big Ass Spider! (2013) is exactly the kind of gleefully silly and entertaining B-movie the SyFy channel wishes it could deliver. The Gravedancers (2006), one of the best-selling releases from the first After Dark Horrorfest, is also a solid spook show, albeit more serious minded. Sadly, those two flicks and the Showtime documentary Masters Of Horror (2002) are the extent of Mendez's directorial filmography since The Convent. Meanwhile, hacks like Uwe Boll seem to release a new movie every other week.
|Monica (Megahn Perry) is bound and gagged in preparation for her sacrifice to Satan.|
The Convent is a textbook example of a familiar premise well executed. Its story revolves around a group of college kids who break into an abandoned convent and unleash hell. Only a reclusive older woman named Christine who quelled a similar incursion in the past (Adrienne Barbeau, absolutely bad-ass as always) can restore order. What really sets The Convent apart, though, isn't the shopworn premise, but the frenetic visual stylings and wickedly funny performances. Chief among these is the acerbically funny Megahn Perry as a goth chick named Monica. When confronted with a self proclaimed Prince of Evil (an equally funny David Gunn) making a theatrically inept attempt to sacrifice her to Satan, Monica calls him out: "Prince of Evil? You work at fucking Dairy Queen." Actual scripted humor is a refreshing change from the unintentional comedy and winking homage that litter so many like-minded B-movies.
|A cheerleader with her face peeled off accompanied by a two former weekend Satanists. Go Team Demon!|
In fact, The Convent is defined more by its comedic elements than its horrific ones. Aside from a stylish opening segment depicting the young Christine laying waste to nuns and clergy accompanied by the Leslie Gore song You Don't Own Me, the movie never really tries to be genuinely disturbing. The Convent aims instead to be a cinematic love letter to the over-the-top gore fests with which director Mendez grew up. Think Evil Dead 2, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in store. Mendez even throws in a cameo by rapper Coolio and genre vet Bill Moseley as dickish local cops, lest viewers fail to recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone Mendez is cultivating.
|Monica (Megahn Perry) gets demonized as the Prince of Evil and his minion watch from across the room.|
Rest assured, though - even if The Convent is never truly frightening, the gore runs deep. There are plenty of stabbings, face peelings, shotgun blasts, genital mutilations, and decapitations to sate even the most ardent gorehound. Though Mendez trimmed a few seconds of the most gratuitous splatter to secure an R rating for the stateside DVD, he's been quoted as saying The Convent is still a "hard R". Genre fans won't be disappointed. With any luck, Mendez's prequel to The Convent, currently listed on IMDB as being in pre-production under the title The Devil's Convent, will arrive sooner rather than later. Until then, grab a copy of The Convent, gather a few friends, and enjoy one of the most overlooked and underappreciated comedic gore-gasms around.