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Face-Off: Night of the Demons 2 vs. The Convent

THE NUN, the latest entry in the ever-expanding Conjuring Universe franchise, was released on DVD and Blu-ray this week (you can purchase a copy at THIS LINK), and to mark the occasion we're taking a look back at a couple of older, cult favorite tales of nuns and demonic possession: Brian Trenchard-Smith's 1994 sequel to the '88 classic NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (a sequel appropriately titled NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2), and director Mike Mendez's 2000 film THE CONVENT, which feels like a spiritual successor to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS itself. These movies have many similar elements, but which works better overall? Let's find out...

LOCAL LEGEND

The first NIGHT OF THE DEMONS established the legend of Hull House, built on "unclean" land that could turn people into homicidal maniacs. In the sequel, the legend focuses on the events of the previous film - the murders and possessions that took place at that house during a Halloween party - and on the girl who threw the party, Angela. They say Angela descended into Hell to become Satan's favorite demon and her evil spirit now haunts Hull House. When local Catholic school kids with an unhealthy interest in the story of Angela attempt to make contact with her, they discover the legend is true. Having the characters be fascinated with (and even connected to) Angela was a good way for the sequel to go, and it promotes Angela to horror icon status.

THE CONVENT tells its story in an interesting way. Mendez hooks us with intriguing imagery, we're told one version of the legend up front, then a character goes to the source for the truth later on. The legend is that the head priest and nuns at a convent performed a forced abortion on a teen girl named Christine, whose child may have been fathered by the priest. Christine got her revenge by killing those who had wronged her, and they say the angry spirits of the priest and nuns still lurk in the old convent 40 years later. There really was no abortion, and everyone Christine killed was demonically possessed. It's those demonic entities that still inhabit the old convent, waiting for the chance to pull off the same apocalyptic plan Christine thwarted decades ago.

NUNSPLOITATION

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 introduces Sister Gloria (called Old Gory by her students) as a ruler-wielding teacher of abstinence, then eventually turns her into a full-on action hero. When the forces of evil invade the student body, Gloria weapons up and springs into action. It's fun to watch this character go from being perceived as a pain in the ass to becoming a badass, such a skilled fighter that she can even dodge decapitation by pulling her head into her habit like a turtle ducking into its shell.

THE CONVENT begins with a scene that shows a teenage girl walking into a church and massacring a bunch of nuns (and a priest), blasting them with a shotgun, beating them with a baseball bat, setting them on fire. It's okay to cheer during this scene, as we'll find out those nuns were demons. When demons once again take over the convent later in the film, they still display a proclivity for wearing habits. Whether they did that or not, the opening scene is already enough to make this a nunsploitation classic.

VIRGIN SACRIFICE

A cruel prank is played on Angela's meek younger sister Melissa when other teens pretend that they're about to sacrifice her to the evil spirits in Hull House. Angela is interested in carrying out a virgin sacrifice of her own - wanting Melissa to join her in Hull House (and, presumably, Hell), Angela tries to get her sister to sacrifice Sister Gloria and absorb the power of her soul. This sacrifice scenario goes by quickly and doesn't turn out the way Angela was hoping for.
 

Virgin sacrifice is very important to the plot of this film, as one is required for the demons residing in the convent to be able to bring the Son of Satan into our world. The AntiChrist will rise through the body of the person sacrificed. Christine's baby, dorky college student Brant, and a goth member of a coven that's as silly as his name - Dickie-Boy - are all options over the course of the film, and the demons get much closer to success than I expected.

DEMONIC ACTIVITY

Aside from the occasional appearance by Angela, the majority of the demonic action in this film is saved for the second half. It takes a little too long to get to that stuff for my taste, but when it arrives there are a good deal of memorable elements: a monstrous lipstick, breasts that turn into hands, severed head basketball, dismemberment, gory meltdowns, and the final confrontation with Angela - which includes a false ending so we can get a tacked on extra battle where Angela takes the form of a giant snake creature. 

It takes just over 30 minutes for demons to enter the picture in this one, the action being kicked off by a virgin sacrifice that isn't even part of the AntiChrist plan. Things move quickly from there, with the demons attacking the people around them, killing them so they can become possessed as well. These demons are hideous creatures that move in a quick, strange manner, and they stand out among others due to the fact that they're covered in blacklight paint. I'm not sure how possession causes that to appear, but it looks neat.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

To take on the demons, Sister Gloria and some of the school students wield weapons that are usually put to use in vampire movies: squirt guns and water balloons filled with holy water. Crosses can do quite a number on the demons as well, but I get the most enjoyment out of seeing the holy water burn them and cause them to melt down into gloriously gross puddles of goo. I always love seeing monsters reduced to slime.

Christine and her young protégé don't need any fancy religious touches to their weapons to battle demons, they do just fine with shotguns, handguns, machine guns, a machete, and a baseball bat. Demon nuns are shot down, glowing blood spraying everwhere, they're decapitated (and Christine keeps their heads as trophies), they're set on fire and blown up... THE CONVENT delivers some entertaining action.

THE CONVENT

If I'm going to watch a movie involving demons and nuns, I'd pick both NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 and THE CONVENT over THE NUN, but if I must whittle the three options down to just one, the winner is THE CONVENT. For me, it's the most purely enjoyable of the bunch, with the most fun characters, the best pacing, and a good amount of action.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or would you have given the win to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2? And how would you rank THE NUN compared to these two? Share your thoughts on these films in the comments section below. If you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can contact me at [email protected].

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