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NYMPHA
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Reviewed by: Dave Murray

Directed by: Ivan Zuccon

Starring:
Tiffany Shepis
Caroline De Cristofaro

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
When a young troubled girl gives herself over to a convent run by a sadistic Mother Superior, she starts having nightmare visions from her past and from the bloody history of the convent itself. As her physical senses are literally stolen from her violently by the nuns, the visions become all that she can see or hear, or even feel. What sort of strange fate do the ghosts of the convent have laid out for poor Sara, and is it a true haunting, or only her spiraling madness, that is fueling the nightmare?
Is it good movie?
Why did I dig this movie? Well, being a guy, I could simply say that it's "maggots in your brain" creepy, and Tiffany Shepis gets naked a lot. That should be enough for any self respecting horror fan to check this gloomy f*cker out. But that would be doing a disservice not only to a finely put together movie, but also to the obvious talent Ms. Shepis brings to the slab here. Now, we've seen the whole haunted convent angle many a time before, but this one has a few different tricks to show us, making this indie something other than just its premise alone.

Storywise, there is a nice balance between the bloody history of the convent and its ramifications for the present. The tale of the crazy old duder and his incestuous plot, mixed with a heavy dose of twisted Christian sentiment, give the flashbacks an almost lickable sense of dread. The focus on a single room as the source of demonic terror was nicely done, and a fine fear builder as well. I love flicks that give you a location to focus on and be afraid of. In the present time portrayed in the movie, the methods the sisters use to bring poor Sarah closer to being able to talk to their "god" are quite nasty. And once the big reveal of that god and its history comes at the end, and all of the gruesome connections between past and present are tied up neatly, it amounts to one hell of a creepy aftertaste in your brain. The story may not be totally original, but there is enough of a spin on it to make you appreciate the filmmakers just the same.

On the acting front, aside from the manace of Caroline De Cristofaro as the twisted Mother Superior, and the fine disturbing performances by a supporting cast in the flashbacks, most of the movie rests on the considerable acting chops of Tiffany Shepis. Seriously, is there anything this girl won't do? The amount of shit that she puts herself through for a movie is insane. Not only does she pull off quiet, intense scenes just as well as heavily emotional outbursts, but she looks damned gorgeous doing so, even when she is covered in blood, burned from elbows to fingertips and tortured beyond human endurance. I also haven't seen a "scream queen" this comfortable with getting nude on camera since a certain punk girl danced on a crypt. As if she wasn't already an indie horror icon, in about 20 years I can see Tiffany's name up there with other iconic scream queens of the 70's and 80's. She's a new breed of horror actress, one who is funny, sexy, smart and infinitely watchable. And if this movie wasn't good already, well, she just happens to make it so.

Finally, the effects were, in one word, nasty! I loved the blleding and cracking door, the not-to-excessive bouts of blood, and while what was implied was more at play than what was shown, that was pretty damn solid and convincing too. Although I don't know about the realism or survivability of the acid in the eyes bit, but I'm not a freaking doctor! That was damn cool! The gore was just effective enough to not be disgusting, but to still be very unsettling. Combine that with a decent story, some excellent twists and surprises, a convincing and disturbed established history, and an artistic flare that ditches the quest for flashy visuals and instead embraces the muted and grungy tones of underground Lovecraftian movies, and you've got a winner even before you take into account the acting. On the downside, the story was a little too ambiguous when it came to its plot connections, and the while the lighting and atmosphere helped the movie, some of the camera work and effects did not. But when you look at the whole picture, it is a very solid horror ride that is definately worth watching again. More creep and less hollywood teeny boo is always a good thing in my book.

Oh, and Tiffany Shepis gets naked. A lot. It's all good.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.77:1. Like I said, this murky and dimly lit mood flick benifits from the lack of gloss or flash, all the better to bring home the griminess of the horror.

Audio: English (Dolby Digital). It's hard to guage audio with a screener, but despite a few dead spots where dialogue droped really low, I've got no complaints about the sound here.
The Extras
Nothing but the Trailer on this screener.
Last Call
May the unholy gods bless you, MTI, for giving us genre releases from the independent world with balls, blood and boobs, and for slapping me across the face yet again with a solid horror effort that wasn't a remake or a sequel, but something that I could actually watch and enjoy and be engaged by. And thank you again for giving us another movie with the most awesome talent that is Tiffany Shepis, the most underrated horror fan's wet dream to come along in two decades. Plus she's a killer actress too, so come on, give this girl more parts will ya! Nympha is a creepy and moody kind of art house horror movie, but one that I'd gladly watch again. It's not perfect, but it's an original take on a familiar theme, well played and well directed into a damn fine movie that gets the heart racing, gets the mind f*cking, and gets the disturbing meter working overtime.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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