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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Killer Nun (Blu-ray)
Killer Nun (Blu-ray)
Blue Underground // Unrated // April 24, 2012 // Region Free
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 6, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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"Sister Gertrude is dying to get laid!"

Well, I'll say this about Killer Nun: there's definitely a nun running around and killing people. If you're looking for to scratch some sort of '70s nunsploitation itch, Killer Nun does deliver at least some of what you'd expect. There's a passably decent body count, some kinda-sorta lesbianism (but not enough for me to use that "nunnilingus" joke I had saved up!), a little sticky sex, a good bit of nun nudity, and some fairly brazen religious skewering. Kinda goes without saying that Killer Nun is sleazy in that proud Eurocult tradition, but it's not nearly sleazy enough. There are tiny little pockets of Eurosleaze scattered around in there, but Killer Nun is mostly content to keep it tedious and boring.

The premise -- torn from the headlines! -- revolves around Gertrude (Anita Ekberg), a nun who toils away with her fellow sisters in a hospital/nursing home/whatever. She recently had a tumor carved out of her noggin, and when she was stitched back together, Sister Gertrude didn't come back quite right. Her new Lord and Savior is morphine, the only thing that suppresses her homicidal outbursts. It's like this -- oh, I don't know, and stop me if you've heard this one before -- dark passenger. Gertrude's pleas for help are rejected, and after a while, she pretty much gives up trying. Her patients...and co-workers!...start keeling over left and right. She
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pilfers jewelry from her victims' dresser drawers. She takes off her Sunday best and goes manhuntin' in the big city. Sister Gertrude can't break the habit (punny!), and anyone that gets in the way of her next fix is certain to die a mostly obscured, light-to-modestly-bloody death.

Killer Nun is mostly a waste. The whole thing plods along at an agonizingly slow pace, with thrilling sequences like Sister Gertrude leading her patients in a sweaty round of jump-less jacks or a doctor trying to claw his way up a set of stairs dragging on for what seems like four and a half hours a piece. Even with as wildly as Anita Ekberg overacts, it's not ridiculous enough to veer over into the level of camp a movie like this demands. There are smatterings of gore, but the violence mostly seems kind of restrained, and there's no real cacklingly demented wit behind it all: just routine bludgeonings and pillow smothering and stuff. There are a couple of really amazing sequences, sure, such as Sister Gertrude violently stomping on a set of false teeth or the wheelchair-beejer-in-the-rain, but that sort of thing is very, very few and far between. The movie doesn't revel in its nuns' repressed sexuality nearly as much as you'd expect. A giallo-esque mystery frames the story, and it's every bit as uninvolving as everything else throughout Killer Nun. It's an exploitation movie in denial, hesitantly dipping its toes into those waters and then pulling right out.

Something with a title like "Killer Nun" really shouldn't be this boring. I've tried to be a good cult cinema completist and have picked up every single Blu-ray disc that Blue Underground has put out so far, and honestly, this is in the running as the worst of that bunch yet. Skip It.


Video
Killer Nun is saddled with that very distinctive look that's reared its head throughout most of Blue Underground's output on Blu-ray to date. A strange video-like texture floats above the rest of the image, and the definition of what lurks underneath tends to be a somewhat smeary mush. If you have a smaller display or sit extremely far away from your TV, you probably won't notice or care, but I definitely found it to be a distraction here. Of course, if you're reading a review of Killer Nun, chances are that you already have a stack of other Blue Underground Blu-ray discs on the shelf, so you've probably already made up your mind. If you're perfectly happy with those, you'll probably give this presentation a thumbs-up too. If you were making the rounds on the usual cult cinema message boards to complain, here's another one to throw on the pyre.

Below are a couple of screenshots that look particularly unnatural to my eyes, if you want to get a sense of what I mean. You'll need to pop them open to full-size, of course.

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Again, that's just not what film looks like. There are also a few scenes with Sister Gertrude in a predominantly white room where the image seems to ripple, but whatever that is, at least it's not a persistent nuisance. Other than that, there's no damage, wear, or speckling scattered around here, and the compression handles that analog video noise deftly enough. The palette has an unmistakeably '70s look to it, but it's reasonably bright and vibrant, and the whites of the nuns' habits are appropriately piercing. I don't have the DVD of Killer Nun handy to do a direct comparison, although I'd imagine that, despite its flaws, this Blu-ray disc is still a considerable step up in quality. I really wish that Blue Underground's persistent problems with their Italian release slate would be
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ironed out already.

For whatever reason, Killer Nun is windowboxed -- meaning you get black bars on all four sides of the screen -- to an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The AVC encode for Killer Nun and its tiny handful of extras fit comfortably on this single-layer Blu-ray disc.


Audio
I continue to be impressed that Blue Underground is upgrading the audio options from their earlier DVD releases. Not only does Killer Nun feature a lossless version of the English dub from the 2004 DVD, but they've also added on an Italian language track. The Italian version is backed by a set of translated English subtitles, and this can be dramatically different from the dub and the other English subtitle stream. The inclusion of the Italian audio is especially appreciated since Killer Nun sounds better that way than it does in English. The dialogue is better balanced in the mix and delivered more convincingly besides. Fidelity is fine in both tracks, but the Italian version strikes me as more robust and more natural. Being a thirtysomething-year-old microbudget import, it's not surprising that frequency response is limited in Killer Nun -- don't waltz in expecting crystalline highs or foundation-rattling lows -- and the overall fidelity doesn't exactly belie the film's age. Nothing remarkable but still very much what I expected...no real complaints.

Both the Italian and English DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are presented in 24-bit, two-channel mono. There are two English subtitle streams -- one captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and the other transcribing a translation of the Italian dialogue -- alongside streams in French and Spanish.


Extras
  • From the Secret Files of the Vatican (14 min.; SD): Carried over from the 2004 DVD
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    is this interview with Killer Nun's co-writer/director, Giulio Berruti. He speaks briefly about the real-life case of a murderous nun in a Belgian nursing home that inspired the film's premise, the concept of drugs as a substitute for God in Sister Gertrude's life, and passing along fake screenplay pages so they could film in a working convent. Berruti also delves into the cast of Killer Nun, the film's makeup effects, its struggles with the censors, and the Vatican cutting a successful Italian release off at the knees. Worth a look.

  • Poster and Still Gallery: This high-res still gallery features a couple of international posters, a dozen or so lobby cards, five pieces of video box art from across the globe, ten publicity stills, seven shots from the film's pressbook along with a couple of newspaper clippings, and some articles from the Italian press.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): Last up is a high-def trailer.

The Final Word
Killer Nun has the kind of title that draws me right in, but its excruciatingly sluggish pace and merely sporadic sleaziness don't really scratch my Eurocult itch. Hafta admit that this is one of the most dismal movies that Blue Underground has brought to Blu-ray to date. Skip It.
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