Wednesday, March 26

FeaturesSpecial Events ArchiveBoston Underground Film Festival 2014

School of the Holy Beast

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40th Anniversary!

1974, Japan, 94 min.
Director Norifumi Suzuki
Screenwriter Masahiro Kakefuda & Norifumi Suzuki
Cast Yumi Takigawa, Fumio Watanabe, Emiko Yamauchi

A young nun seeks to uncover the dark secrets of the Sacred Heart Convent in this nunsploitation classic. School of the Holy Beast is as blasphemous and shocking as it is artistically stunning. 

The film opens as Maya, a young single woman, enjoys one last night of freedom before she runs off to join the Sacred Heart Convent—“where women aren’t women”—to investigate the mysterious death of her mother 18 years ago. What she encounters there is as far from the supposedly celibate and pious life of a nun as you can imagine. The world of the Convent is a strange and debauched place, where half-naked nuns engage in brutal self-flagellation and make love in the rose gardens. Maya journeys deeper into the world of the Convent to solve the mystery of her mother’s murder, learning the dark secrets and hypocrises of the Church and its leaders.

But provocative subject matter aside, what makes this film so deserving of respect and admiration (and this 40th anniversary screening) are the powerful directorial choices made by Norifumi Suzuki. Soft lighting coupled with bold geometric compositions give the film a strong and unique aesthetic, enhanced with decisive camera movements and a judicious use of slow motion. (One of the film’s most memorable sequences takes place when Maya is whipped with rose thorns in slow-motion, making for one of the most aesthetically perfect scenes of violence I have ever seen.) The look of this film is sometimes reminsicent of the best gialli, but ultimately is wholly unique and absolutely gorgeous.

School of the Holy Beast is a masterpiece of the Pinky Violence genre of Japanese exploitation cinema. These female-centric films of the 1960s and 70s, with provocative titles like Sex & FuryFemale Convict Scorpion, and Terrifying Girls’ High School were conceived by the legendary Toei Company as a fusion of erotic “pink films” and more traditional, violent exploitation fare. As you can imagine, School of the Holy Beast contains its fair share of both eroticism and violence, but it also functions on a deeper level as a critique of the Catholic Church and one of the most stunning aesthetic statements in the entirety of exploitation cinema.

— Bryan McKay

Click a showtime to purchase tickets:

  • Wednesday, March 26 at 9:45 PM

Tickets $10, $8 Brattle Members. Brattle passes not accepted for festival screenings.