Saturday, January 10, 2015

#1,608. The Other Hell (1981)

Directed By: Bruno Mattei

Starring: Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno

Tag line: "What happens when nuns become possessed by the devil?"

Trivia: This movie was also released as Guardian of Hell

A nun, alone and frightened, makes her way through an underground catacomb. All around her lie the skeletal remains of hundreds of people, stacked in piles along the catacomb walls. She eventually makes her way to a room in which another nun is preparing to embalm the remains of a third sister, whose dead body rests on a table in front of them both. Suddenly, the nun performing the embalming grabs a scalpel and slices the genitals of the deceased, calling the now-severed body part “The door to evil” that “leads to hell”. It won’t be long before the crazed sister turns the knife on her companion, stabling her first in the crotch, then several times in the back.

Thus begins director Bruno Mattei’s 1981 horror film The Other Hell. Unfortunately, it didn’t end here; this opening sequence is the best thing about the movie.

For years, the local abbey has had its share of problems, forcing the Bishop to send Father Inardo (Andrea Aureli) to check things out. After a few unexplained events, the good Father is convinced an exorcism is in order, but before he completes it, Sister Rosario (Susan Forget) experiences a religious phenomenon known as the Stigmata (her hands and feet begin to bleed, emulating the wounds Jesus received the day he was crucified). With the exorcism deemed a failure, the Bishop next sends in Father Valerio (Carlo De Mejo). More skeptical than his predecessor, Father Valerio clashes openly with Sister Vincenza (Franca Stoppi), the abbey’s Mother Superior, who resents his presence. Undaunted, Father Valerio continues his investigation, only to find that dark forces have taken up residence in the abbey, putting everyone within its walls in the greatest of danger.

The Other Hell has a handful of inspired moments; along with its opening, there’s a tense sequence involving the abbey’s groundskeeper, Boris (Franco Garofalo), and his kennel of vicious dogs, as well as a surprising scene where a character bursts into flames, burning to a crisp before our eyes. Aside from this, The Other Hell features a lot of walking, with characters (usually Father Valerio) strolling through the abbey, finding nothing more than a bunch of dolls hanging by their neck from the ceiling (the first doll is kinda creepy, but then it gets out of hand). What’s more, there are a number of scenes that make no sense (Sister Rosario’s Stigmata is well-handled, but never explained), leaving us scratching our heads, wondering what the hell is going on?

Who knows what’s really happening at the abbey? Who’s possessed, and who isn’t? In the end, the answer to these questions is itself a question: Who cares? The filmmakers surely didn’t, and as a result, instead of a well-thought-out horror film, what we get in The Other Hell are a few cool scenes mixed into an otherwise confusing, very boring motion picture.

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