MTI Home Video, the little studio that has previously blessed us with such excellent international horror as Wolfgang Büld’s ANGST, Jôji Iida’s ANOTHER HEAVEN (ANAZAHEVUN) and the awesome Samurai Werewolf flick KIBAKICHI now bring us old-school Italiano horror with NYMPHA, the new religious scarefest from director Ivan Zuccon and starring none other than America’s Scream Queen sweetheart, Ms. Tiffany Shepis!!!
NYMPHA is a disturbingly atmospheric, strangely rambling film, centered around the arrival of an American woman named Sarah (Tiffany Shepis) at a secluded Convent in rural Italy. Her backstory is quickly revealed in a few short exchanges with the very intimidating Mother Superior (the intense Italian actress Alessandra Guerzoni). Sarah has come to the Sisterhood to escape her life of unspecified sin and devote herself to reflecting on herself and The Lord.
Soon enough, Sarah finds herself at the mercy of the Sisterhood as they preach enlightenment through removing Sarah’s senses in the most barbaric ways possible. A mysterious ‘Doctor’ shows up and, in a leaky, poorly-lit basement, proceeds to roughly ‘examine’ and then brutally deafen Sarah by shoving scalpels through her eardrums! Through an artful combination of Sarah’s POV, strange, hallucinatory flashbacks and mounting confusion over whether the Sisters are teaching or torturing, we are thrust into the same spiraling madness that Sarah is experiencing. It is one of those strange films that becomes more of a shared experience than a passive viewing. This is something that the Italian school of horror has done well for decades now – from Bava, Argento and Fulci to the 90’s films of Michele Soavi and Mariano Baino.
NYMPHA director Ivan Zuccon is a worthy successor to those cinematic forebears, not only in atmospheric terror, but also in gore, gratuitous sex and nudity and, most notably, in meandering, serpentine plotlines that evade any kind of sense until the final moments of the film. While that is a risky proposition with most films, Italian horror somehow lends itself to that confusion and misdirection. The key, 90% of the time, is the performance of the lead actors. In this case, almost every player is spot on. Alessandra Guerzoni, who plays the Mother Superior and the ill-fated daughter Lavinia (one of many E.A. Poe references) is almost unidentifiable as the same actress in the dual roles. As Mother Superior she is frighteningly cold and soulless, with a self-approving psychopathic glint in her eye throughout Sarah’s ordeal, carrying herself with the straight-backed calculation of a Cobra about to strike. As Lavinia, she is bedraggled, terrified and manic and completely unrecognizeable in her few short scenes. Any American actress would be lauded as a revelation for the kind of talent Guerzoni displays here.
Speaking of American actresses and talent – Tiffany Shepis absolutely owns this film. Far be it from me to belittle the previous work of our greatest Scream Queen and hardest working woman in film, but The Shep has never been given the opportunity to show her real chops before. Normally she plays some variation of her own sexy, effusive and loveably fiesty self. She has always been a good actress and convincing in her roles but she has never been challenged like this before. We had a small taste in the finale of NIGHTMARE MAN when she becomes completely unhinged after being possessed by the Devil, but this is no-bullshit, Award-caliber, Meryl Streep-time acting. Shepis carries the film on her petite back, drawing the viewer into her terror as she is terrorized by the brutal Sisterhood, literally mangled by the Doctor, sent careening into madness by unexplained, horrific ‘visions’ and then, ultimately, pushed back into reality and given all of the answers to this mystery, before having it all torn away again. She is stripped, mutilated, beaten and spends most of the film as a dirty, confused and blood-encrusted mess. Unlike Hollywood equivalents, where Sarah would have been blood-soaked, but still sexy and rambunctious, Zuccon and Shepis take us into Sarah’s experience and spare none of the unpleasantness. Shepis should be damn proud of this performance and, hopefully, her involvement with this film should take her career to a whole new level. She is a truly talented and magnificent actor, far beyond anything she has been able to show us before.
Bottom line – NYMPHA is an eerie, disturbing and atmospheric chiller from a visually talented director. It is also a tremendous showcase for the thespian talents of Tiffany Shepis, a woman who has wowed North American genre fans for years and is poised to pounce on the rest of the world as well.
The DVD, available now from MTI HOME VIDEO through Amazon.com, features Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 DDS sound, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, a photo gallery, trailers, biographies and optional Spanish subtitles.
THIS TRAILER CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGERY, DISCRETION IS ADVISED
*** STAY TUNED for a chat with the reigning Queen of Scream herself, our old pal Ms. Tiffany Shepis! Coming soon to The Den of Iniquity, right here on the EYECRAVE NETWORK!!!***