It's tempting to look for deeper meaning in Nympha. You don't even really have to try too hard to dig up a pretty interesting concept or two, concepts that are far above Nympha's station. Because, if you think back to the idea that Nympha is really just a modern update of the 'nunsploitation' genre starring Tiffany Shepis, you'll want to ditch any highbrow notions you might be brewing, and just hope for more boobs, blood and nun-on-nun action.
The big crime here is not that Nympha might get you thinking, it's that boobs and blood are in short supply until the final half-hour, and even then there's probably not enough to satisfy you sickos who actually know what nunsploitation is. There are some other faults, too, including a multi-tiered flashback motif that's irritating, (until that final half-hour when everything momentarily gels) with proceedings filled with crying, screaming and thick-accented mumbling. Seriously, for two-thirds of Nympha anyone easily annoyed - I am - will be begging for Nympha to get to the point and get it over with. Plus, our DVD-Rom screener keeps popping up with a 'for promotional use only' super-graphic that constantly takes one out of the movie. It doesn't exactly help a movie that could use a bit, making it difficult for me to judge Nympha accurately.
Shepis plays Sarah, a new recruit for an extremely selective convent. Upon arrival on a rainy night she's immediately forced to get naked, (yea!) then don her blood-red habit. Everything starts sliding down a muddy hill thereafter. Sarah's forced into some suspect surgical procedures administered by a drunken lout, and she enters flashback hell. This disorienting fun includes the crazily devout groundskeeper for the convent, a poor young girl named Ninfa (apparently that name doesn't sell as well as Nympha, however) and a room full of rotting things and a mysterious savage presence referred to as 'The Lord.'
Nympha's take on a freakish convent full of wackos who worship a mutilated, literally senseless martyr has all the promise of earlier nunsploitation pictures, (many of which were based on the Marquis De Sade's blasphemous writings) maybe even more promise. But like lots of those other movies (go to nunsploitation.net for an exhaustive look) Nympha chooses to focus on the sleaze. Sadly, there's not enough sleaze. Save for a late in the game brief soft-core romp between Sarah and an apparition, Shepis mostly weeps, mumbles, screams and suffers. Her suffering is gross, for sure, and a decent amount of blood is sprayed about - tortures that plant Nympha in horror furrows, rather than the usual nuns-enjoying-bondage stuff you'd expect.
All the elements are there to make Nympha a (sick) crowd pleaser; Shepis delivers nicely, there's blood, and boobs (not enough, though). If only those flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks) wouldn't take so long traversing from confusing and annoying to potent. If only director Ivan Zuccon's numerous stylistic grace notes backed up something a bit more scary, sexy or serious. If only I could understand what people were saying half the time. Seriously, the amount of thick-accented mumbling going on is astounding - you'll be reaching for your hearing aid. So Nympha's got some problems, but the weirdo climax where all that's wrong somehow comes together for a brief moment will leave you with a good, tarnished feeling.
Our DVD-Rom screener is substandard. Non-anamorphic widescreen in I'd guess a 1.85:1 ratio cuts off at the bottom some of the subtitles used for Italian-speaking nuns. Colors are either cast with a sickly green or warm and red in certain scenes, but never looking exactly natural. Grainy noise is a big problem in darker scenes, posterizing makes those candlelit rooms look lame, a bit of aliasing here and there I think, and hey, the 'promo use only' super even blocks subtitles frequently! Nice!
This screener is probably in stereo. There's no encoding that my DVD player can read to tell me. All that mumbling and muttering tends to fight with the soundtrack and sound effects, making plenty of dialog even more difficult to hear.
I certainly didn't see any extras.
I'm lame for not knowing that nunsploitation is still a going concern. Nympha's hybridized horror version of such holds promise with Shepis as star, but the emphasis here is on torture, decay and bloodshed, so leave your thoughts of hot nun booty behind. Mumbling confusion full of tiring flashbacks ultimately cements itself in a fairly loony, somewhat exhilarating final half-hour, but it's a tough slog getting there. I'd probably guide catholic horror freaks towards renting Nympha, but a poor quality screener only backs up my decision. Rent It if you're not yet sure that you're going to hell.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com