School of the Holy Beast
by Barry Meyer
From Cult Epics comes Japan’s most notorious Nunsploitation flick.
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What’s not to like? School of the Holy Beast has something for every genre fan across the board. For the fans of Nunsploitation flicks you’ve got your nubile nuns struggling to protect their virtue. You’ve got your Gothic mystery and bloodletting for the Horror fans. There’s the chicks playing with switchblades and with each other for the Sexploitation group, S&M for fans of that kinda stuff, and there’s even some rompous fun for the fans of Nuns on the Run. And then there’s the exquisite young Asian beauties for all of the… well, the men.
Yumi Takigawa (Virus) plays Maya, a young free spirit who (accompanied by a back drop of awesome music that could only have come from the 70s) sets out on a pleasure binge before going off to a place where she says “women aren’t women.” That place would be the hauntingly gothic looking Sacred Hearts Convent. It’s not sexual guilt that drives the orphaned teen to the nunnery, but an 18-year long quest to find out what happened to her mother who died there years ago. But how is one to find answers when the Mother Superior and her Sisters are too busy repressing their own sexuality and having the young nuns run around topless and flogging each other bloody? With the help of the rebellious Matsuko - a fellow nun who openly denounces the Imaculate Conception and taunts the Sisters with digs like “You look decent, but you all just want to get laid” - Maya ventures to solve the mystery behind her mother’s death, while trying to avoid her same horrendous fate.
Director Norifumi Suzuki gained notoriety with his salacious additions to the Japanese Sukeban flicks (Sukeban loosely translates to “teenage girl delinquent”), which, although released as exploitation flicks, were well oiled vehicles of sharp social commentary. Suzuki doesn’t fail to live up to the cause by ripping into the hypocrisy and corruption of Japanese Catholicism with the film hailed as Japan’s most shocking Nunsploitation flick - School of the Holy Beast. Not willing to take the easy route (like many of the American Exploitation flicks did that also came out in the 70s) and make a simple Sexploitation “Euro-Trash” sleaze-fest, Suzuki legitimizes the genre by delivering a curious, visually rich feast of a film. Besides capturing the obvious miles of silky Asian flesh, the cinematography is brilliant, imaginative, and often times poetic. One memorable scene that has Maya bound across her torso with thorny vines while being whipped by her superiors builds to a delirious crescendo of saturated red rose petals cascading down upon the half-naked girl (uh-hum, American Beauty alert), all to a rapturously beautiful soundtrack. This scene alone may have inspired Dario Argento’s Susperia (which was made 3 years later).
Cult Epics releases the School of the Holy Beast DVD with a virtuously flawless looking Widescreen print, accompanied by a theatrical trailer and two separate commentary tracks from the film’s star Yumi Takigawa and Japanese film critic Risaku Kiridoushi.
Barry Meyer is a writer doing time in Jersey…and he wants to see your obscure films!
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