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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THE OTHER HELL -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

Definitely the bad-vibes movie of the year so far (for me, anyway) is Bruno Mattei's 1981 dreary nunsploitation shocker THE OTHER HELL, which, despite being laughably inept at times, is also drenched with oppressive atmosphere and some truly demented imagery.

Here again is one of those tales of a nunnery gone bad--in this case, about as bad as it gets. It's infested to the gills with all manner of dark forces and blasphemous activities, including a really weird dungeon laboratory where embalmings and disembowelings are performed by cackling maniac nuns. 

Things get to the point where an old priest is sent to investigate, and, upon failing to turn up anything via his traditional methods, is replaced by the younger, more forward-thinking Father Valerio (Carlo De Mejo), who believes that true evil doesn't exist and is merely the result of psychological malajustment.  (Boy, is he ever in for a shock!)

I won't go too far into the story but suffice it to say that Valerio encounters some mighty weird nuns, including a shifty-eyed Mother Vincenzia (Franca Stoppi), who runs the place and seems to be hiding some rather deep, dark secrets, and another young nun who's had such a terrifying experience in the bowels of the convent that her hair's gone gray and she's in a vegetative state. 

Some of the other nuns tend to totally freak out from time to time, which arouses the young detective-priest's suspicions to the point where he decides to give the place a full shakedown from top to bottom.  It's at that point where he crosses the line and becomes a target for all the malevolent forces at work (including a strange, ghostly-looking nun who creeps around with her face fully obscured by a veil). 

Typical of Bruno Mattei's work (including ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL, and MONDO CANNIBAL), THE OTHER HELL is directed in a kinetic but unpolished style (co-writer Claudio Fragasso handled much of the directorial chores as well) that often bursts forth with startling and extreme images.

These unfortunately include Mattei's tendency to show real animal cruelty, as when a chicken is beheaded in closeup, and of course the obligatory maggot scene familiar to so much of Italian horror cinema. 

Mattei's found locations are an invaluable asset to the film's production values, with most of the action taking place within both an actual former convent and a palace, both of which are quite impressive.  Adding to the spook factor are scenes which take place in a genuine catacomb in Italy which serves as a mass tomb and is stacked with thousands of skulls and bones. 

(Not adding much is a soundtrack featuring Goblin music not written for the film which sounds good but is totally inappropriate for most of the scenes it's used in.)

It's here and in the aforementioned dungeon laboratory that the story's climax takes place, which is deliriously over-the-top and comes on like a wave of brain-rotting horror that may leave you reeling right up until the very last jolt.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films is in 1080p full HD resolution with English, French, and Italian 2.0 sound and English subtitles.  Severin once again comes through with the extras, this time with a commentary featuring Claudio Fragasso and "Freak-O-Rama"'s Federico Caddeo, an interview with actress Franca Stoppi, archive interviews with Mattei and actor Carlo De Mejo, and the film's trailer.

For me, this was one of the most feel-bad flicks I've seen in quite a while, and when it was over I almost felt like I needed to take a long, hot bath in a tub of holy water.  But for fans of Bruno Mattei, nunsploitation, and totally whacked-out horror flicks in general, THE OTHER HELL will probably be right up their really, really dark alley.

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