I have to confess that the icky ecclesiastic epic The Other Hell surprised me. Not because it was well made. Because it wasn’t. Not because it featured an original story. Just your standard possessed by the Dark Lord tale here. And certainly not for its acting. Franca Stoppi from Beyond The Darkness and Carlo De Mejo from City Of The Living Dead? Wasn’t George Eastman or at least Bret Halsey available? No, what thoroughly caught me off guard was that in this entire convent of nuns there wasn’t a single lesbian!
Shockingly, The Other Hell isn’t here pretending to be a softcore porn film in religious clothing. It wants to be a horror film. More specifically, I think it wants to be The Exorcist, but with Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso manning the controls who can be sure what it’s really up to.
Nominally about some deaths at a convent and the priest who comes to uncover their cause, the movie trips and stumbles through the outline of what it intended all the while managing to throw in scenes that didn’t make sense or weren’t needed or were so poorly staged you weren’t sure what you were supposed to be getting from them.
In the bowels of the convent, there’s a nun who is using her home embalming kit to pickle a dead nun. Another nun comes looking for someone and Embalming Nun is ranting and raving about how the genitals are the devil’s doorway, stabbing this corpse’s nether regions, cutting it out and holding the glop in her hands. (This is one of the times I was praising Mattei’s shocking incompetence with the camera.)
Then she whips open a coffin and it’s the old mother superior and before you know it, Embalming Nun is stabbing the other nun in the back over and over.
There is some talk about this padre coming to investigate some deaths, but it’s an old guy and his investigation consists of just sitting at a desk posing for a sketch that another priest is doing for him. It’s a bad sketch and for some reason the priest was drawing a pitchfork next to the padre’s face. Before he could finish it though, the padre has to leave because the real investigator has arrived.
Father Valerio is a young guy full of cutting edge ideas about good and evil. His particular brand of cutting edge involves some claptrap about how there’s positive thoughts and that there is also evil stuff, too.
His clash with the padre, who is a staunch believer in good old fashioned Satan, lasts all of about two minutes and the next big thing the padre would be involved in is when Satan causes him to spontaneously combust and then have his charred head put in the tabernacle.
Father Valerio is determined to get to the bottom of things, but he’s hampered in many different ways in the course of his investigation. Like when a medium-sized dog chases him.
This is another one of those scenes that’s played up a bit more than is probably wise since the whole time this dog is chasing him, the dog looks like he’s just smiling and is probably going to lick him or at worst, hump the crap out of his leg. But Father Valerio acts like the Hound of the Baskervilles’ rabid brother is after him.
After being stymied in his attempts at checking into things, Father Valerio gets the go ahead from the higher ups to carry out his mission with extreme prejudice. I wish I could say that this meant busting some heads, kicking in doors, and shaking down informants, but all it really meant was that Father Valerio messed up some stuff on a shelf and in a closet that this catatonic nun had.
At least she was catatonic until Valerio noticed a loose tile in the floor and discovered a lock of hair under it. As he fondled this nasty bit of hair, the catatonic nun jumped off her bed and started strangling him with her rosary beads. It’s a miracle!
Or it’s the result of the superpowered chick who is the daughter of Satan using her telekinesis to cause it to happen while she hovers just outside the door. You make the call!
Father Valerio survives, the mysterious stranger disappears and it isn’t long before he launches the next phase of his investigation. He gets himself a newfangled device that they call a video camera and records something.
I wasn’t sure what he tried to record, but what he ended up getting somehow was a pretty convenient piece of ancient history. Appetite spoiler alert: it involves a boiled baby!
There’s a funny showdown between Father Valerio and the mother superior that sees her stab him in the leg a couple of times before the now grown up boiled baby arrives. Some tender moments between Father Valerio and her follow and they kiss even though her getting boiled alive left her lips with a bad case of nasty!
With more than ample help from co-director and screenwriter Claudio Fragasso (Zombie 4: After Death), Mattei, while not achieving the cheap lunacy of some of his other films (giant rats ruling the world, nude anthropology, Reb Brown), manages all sorts of confusing antics sure to keep the viewer in a state of increasing disbelief.
Telekinesis, dog attacks, cooked babies, genital slicing and sketching priests might all add up to a cringe-inducing cocktail of crudeness to most, but thankfully for us viewers, it’s just another day at the office for Bruno Mattei!
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