Just released on Toei Video this past week,Yuji Makiguchi's Nuns That Bite (Onna gokumon-cho: Hikisakareta niso; '77) has been doing the theatrical rounds in Japan for some time, but has been MIA on DVD.
On the avmaniacs forum, one writer mentioned hearing that the film is the "Japanese equivalent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (in fact and spirit). Having just watched the pristine DVD, I can hit that rumor on the head. It's a stretch to say the film has any resemblance to Tobe Hooper's rugged masterpiece. In short, it's a Japanese nunsploitation film that, content-wise, feels like Teruo Ishii-lite. Ishii, for the uninitiated, directed such works as Horrors of Malformed Men, Orgies of Edo, and Love and Crime. He also helmed a number of torture-themed flicks for the same studio, but it is with Love and Crime (also reviewed on this blog), with its glorious catalog of freaks and visual atrocities, that this film shares common virtues.
The set-up is basic and a little protracted. A woman on the run is raped, rescued, then raped again. Escaping, she heads for the hills and finds safe haven at a convent. After becoming a postulant (trainee nun), she catches her fellow sisters engaging in lesbianism, fighting over nothing, hurling snakes at each other, and engaging in mild flesh eating. For a film with this title, the amount of cannibalism on show is disappointing.
Compared to the rich convent life presented in Norifumi Suzuki's School of the Holy Beast, the convent in Nuns That Bite is a more modest affair. It's a series of rooms in which nuns sleep, make out, and act crazy. The Mother Superior is MILF material (I guess MSILF is more accurate) who oversees various punishments and enjoys the services of a strange boy-in-waiting (her son perhaps?) who appears to exert quite a bit of power over the sisters. This fellow proves himself quite the first-rate tattletale when he reports on our heroine's investigation into the convent's non-religious activities. Not surprisingly, she pays a painful price for the little shit's loose lips.
The films sounds marginally better in synopsis than it actually is. At times, it's a little slow and pedestrian, and lacks the cinematic energy someone like Suzuki or Ishii would have brought to it. Various bloody atrocities are served up with glee such as a headless body, a severed head, bones stripped of flesh, human meat BBQ, and various stabbings and piercings. The lesbian lovemaking is erotic enough without becoming repetitious, and there are some deformed, freakish characters who should have been given more screen time and some story relevance. One sequence involving a crazy woman performing a religious ritual and acting like she's on LSD has the Ishii feel, and could have passed as a deleted scene from Horrors of Malformed Men. There is also a psychedelic dance number.
For director Makiguchi, this is fairly restrained material. Previously, he directed the brutal, visceral Shogun's Sadism (aka Joys of Torture 2: Oxen Split Torturing) and the nasty Bizarre Crimes of Post-War Japan. Nuns That Bite was his last theatrical feature.
At sixty-nine minutes, the film is very short, but it feels longer because there's not much plot to speak of.
Still, great to see this little-seen cult treat in the daylight at last, and recommended for adventurous film fans, of course.
As the film is not subtitled in English, my review is
substantially biased by my inability to fully comprehend
and experience the film as it is meant to be experienced.