It would appear that the most popular genre for independent film makers is the horror flick. All you really need is a semblance of a scary story, a creepy location and a couple of young actresses willing to take their clothes off while being dowsed in a few hundred gallons of fake blood. Since these requirements are not at all difficult to assemble just about every third Indy flick that comes around is a horror flick of some sort. This genre does have its shining moments; just think ‘Exorcist’ but they are few and far between. While this set a very high bar to meet there are occasionally a flick that comes along that takes things into a novel enough direction to make it worth while. One such film is ‘NyMpha’ by Ivan Zuccon. While it is not a great movie it makes the genre work again. There are a lot of faults to the film but overall there is more than a modicum of entertainment value present. For the most part this movie works due to a combination of style and story. Both are sufficiently original to keep the audience guess a little more than usual. ‘NyMpha’ has some elements of horror that are often used but rare used correctly. There are religious themes and the stand by ancient terrible secret to be had here but at least there is an attempt to make it seem new. It is refreshing that this is not a slash and dash flick filled with stoned out and horny teens getting picked up one by one by some demented killer a few chromosomes short of a genome. This movie relies on character development to drive it. The film is well worth a look for aficionados of the horror genre. It is now available on DVD through MTI so you won’t have to travel far to get a copy.
Script writer Ivo Gazzarrini is fairly new to film. His previous work, also done with director Ivan Zuccon, was ‘Bad Brains’, a different twist on the serial killer flick. In this flick the story revolves around a young woman, Sarah, wonderfully played by Tiffany Shepis, who decides that her life is an out of control mess. The only option she feels that will help is to run off to a convent and become a nun. I really didn’t think that this was considered as a viable option for a young woman, at least since the popularization of indoor plumbing. In any case this is what the lamented Sarah thinks is the only way out of the problems of her life. Of course you know there has to be something terribly wrong in this choice. The convent is not what it seems at first. The methods used to cleanse an applicant are at the level that would make the Tomás de Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition green with envy. The story develops slowly drawing the audience of the young woman on the screen. Gazzarrini employs a tried and true plot device here; good old fashion Catholic guilt. The expurgation of sin has been around for many millennia but rarely as brutally depicted as it is here.
From the directorial point of view Zuccon scores on a stylistic level. The pacing is much slower than most fans of this type of film is used to. At times the movie almost appears to plod along. There is a realistic rational for this though. Zuccon is building to the last act of the movie. There is a lot of exposition to be given and the establishment of the primary and secondary characters all take time. All too often a director comes up with a great first act and even a solid second but falters in the third. Here Zuccon breaks the trend with a beginning that does stretch the bounds of reality a bit with the reasons for the convent. Once Sarah is in the convent things pick up. The middle of the film drives towards a conclusion that will satisfy even the most die hard fans of the genre. Zuccon does make a few nods to the puerile nature of the audience. This is most evident with a lesbian love scene that is ultimately gratuitous adding little to nothing to the development of the plot. Overall Zuccon makes the film work almost by his force of will alone.
The film starts off with ancient Catholic iconic images. This does help set the stage and the mood for what is to unfold. The camera focuses on a woman dressed in red robes as she goes to answer the door. It is a suitably dark and stormy night; just right for a horror flick. The walls of the hallway are covered with religious paintings. The nun opens the door to find Sarah drenched in the rain. Sarah tries to explain to the nun that she was sent from the United States by her bishop but the nun does not understand English. Another nun who speaks English comes over to help. This nun is obviously in charge and snatches the envelop Sarah is hold barking that she is late. The mother superior explains that once you enter the order you may not leave it. Sarah is told that entering this order is to abandon everything of the outside world and give up all comforts. Sarah is lead to a room that locks from the outside without electricity or hot water. There is disrobes to rid herself of her worldly clothing. The mother superior freaks out when she sees a tattoo of a pair of dice on Sarah’s stomach. She tells the novice that removing all signs of her former life will be difficult and painful. If Sarah knew what was coming she would run out of there at this point. Sarah just wants a life of complete solitude and stays. The music is right out of a forty’s gothic thriller; spooky and eerie. As she tries to get some sleep the walls start to crack and creek only to return to normal appearance in an instant. The mother superior comes into the dank room telling Sarah it is time for her first meeting with God. She is taken to a dimly lit room with water flowing on the walls and a tray with surgical instruments. Sarah is told to remove her clothes and await the doctor. Outside a man is drinking from a flask trying to work up the fortitude to go in. The ‘doctor’ begins his examination of Sarah as a nun hands him a scalpel. Sarah shutters as he moves closer. Next we see her with blood on her clothing and blood in the drain back at the room. Blood is coming out of Sarah’s ears and when a nun comes in she realizes that she cannot hear. There is more than enough explicit bloodshed to come but this is part of the slow build up that Zuccon employs in this film. A lesser director would have gone for an initial cheap shot at a torturous procedure. Slowly the audience finds out that there is a long dark history to the convent that revolves around someone named Ninfa. The details are the core of the story and are worth waiting around to discover.
The film is often just weird but it is well within the requirements for a solid horror flick. There is a bit more of the psychological factor at work here although the visceral effect is at time staggering. This is not always an easy film to watch. It borders on the torture flick fad that became popular with movies like ‘Saw’ only without the silly gadgets. MTI is always a great place to go to get a film that you never would of though about. They bring some of the strangest movies around to DVD so if you want something out of the ordinary they should be on your favorites list. This is a odd film that has style and gruesome scenes that will disturb and entertain.