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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Review: The Convent

Director: Paul Hyett
Screenplay: Paul Hyett and Conal Palmer
Year: 2019

Synopsis: In the 17th century Persephone, a young woman, is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death. The leader of a small group of nuns, the Reverend Mother, does a timely intervention and saves Persephone from death, offering her a chance for redemption in her convent. What she did not know is that she will have to keep fighting for her life even inside the convent walls, as there are unholy presences in this place.

First time I heard about this movie I thought it was a copy of "The Nun" trying to take advantage of the success of the character Valak. Later I looked up some information about its production and I realized that this movie started being exhibited on festivals before "The Nun". After seeing it, and now that I have put on the comparisons, it reminded me more of the style and atmosphere of "St. Agatha". What is for sure is that even when its story shares some similarities with these two movies, it is not a rip-off of neither.

"The Convent” also known as “Heretiks” takes place in the 17th century in England. The story starts when Persephone is rescued by the Reverend Mother of a convent before she was to be burned at the stake after being considered to be a witch. This convent offers her the opportunity to redeem herself, but of course, this is a horror movie and we know beforehand that something will go wrong. The convent in which she is accepted is directed with exaggerated strictness (here the similarities with "St. Agatha"), a sickness starts affecting the nuns that live there and, if this was not enough, also evil entities live together with them. Good luck with your plans for redemption.

Being set in the 17th century allows having in hand a few elements to craft an unsettling atmosphere. The convent is a huge stone structure in which, because of the time, the only source of light are candles and similar items. This allows creating scenes where shadows are its best ally to set a tense ambient and at the same time place unsettling images to scare the viewer. Jump scares are well crafted, although they are predictable, and this makes them lose some effectiveness. Besides jump scares and images oriented to scare the viewer, "The Convent" also has a bloody side. Many of these scenes are well done, but in some, they try to take the violent and repugnant factor to a level in which it becomes unintentionally funny.

At first, I got the impression that this would be a slow movie, but once they reach the convent it does the contrary, to the extent that some parts feel like they are progressing too fast. The editing has lots of continuity errors that affect the effectiveness of the scene, While director Paul Hyett (“The Seasoning House”) was careful with other details, these are sloppy. On top of that, the CGI effects are awful, but luckily, they do not appear much and are well compensated with the good practical effects and makeup, which is thanks to the previous works of Hyett as a makeup artist. The screenplay of Conal Palmer, who had previously worked with Hyett as a makeup artist and as a screenwriter, is solid, although in parts it has some plot holes and some dialogs sound slightly dumb.

The work of the cast was very good. Especially the protagonists Persephone, interpreted by Hannah Arteton (“Safe”) and the Reverend Mother, interpreted by Clare Higgins (“Hellraiser”) manage to capture the essence of their characters and move the story. Now, I was expecting that the name of Persephone would be used some way or another in the story as it cannot be coincidence having a character named like that in a movie that takes place in a convent. If you are asking yourself what I mean, Persephone is the name of the goddess of the underworld in Greek mythology.

I had low expectations about “The Convent”, but it managed to surprise me. Even when it has some flaws, particularly many ideas that are pitched in and then are left underdeveloped and a disappointing ending, in general, it is entertaining and has its bright moments.

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