Movie Review: Thy Kill Be Done
Don’t ask how and don’t ask why, but the nunsploitation genre is making a major comeback in the cinema. And we’re all the richer for it.
There are two ways to approach the making of a film about revenge-seeking, death-dealing Catholic nuns. Given the ludicrousness of the entire premise to begin with, one could either treat the subject with real seriousness or go for the strictly goofy send-up route.
Despite the pun-ish title, directors Greg Hanson and Casey Regan successfully opt for the serious route. While there are a few good jokes scattered throughout the film, for the most part Thy Kill Be Done is a straight recreation of the ’70s urban gang exploitation genre.
With a suitably grainy film stock and funky score — both courtesy D.P. and music scorer Seth Applebaum — the film feels both modern and throwback as it begins in a church in an indeterminate year. Monsignor O’Byrron (Kevin Kate) sermons about the ills that plague the city — drugs, rape, prostitution and murder — when a drug-addled 12-year-old boy (Johnny Kilcoyne) bursts inside and passes out among the pews.
Following a confrontation with the unrepentant drug dealer named Scratch (Scott Hand) and his goons, the Monsignor lies bloody and dead in the snow. So, it’s up to a trio of ass-kicking nuns (Jessica Webb, Rachel Cervarich, Chaseedaw Giles) to get revenge and clean up the streets for good.
That set-up takes up pretty much exactly half of the 14-minute film, so it takes a little while before things get going. But, when the nuns do decide to fight back, Hansen and Regan really throw things into high gear, beginning with an insane Vietnam flashback to explain their unusual penchant for violence.
The ostensible leader of the nuns is Sister Yvonne, played with a steely and fierce intensity by Jessica Webb, who delivers her lines — whether she’s reciting scripture or announcing she’s going to kick some goon’s ass — without once winking at the audience that her character’s actions or dialogue are totally ridiculous. She’s a totally fearsome presence.
The eventual showdown between nuns and goons in — where else? — an abandoned warehouse is a nicely choreographed bloodbath with especially good, gory special effects for a low-budget short film. Hansen and Regan wisely knew that they couldn’t cheat on delivering a completely over-the-top, brutal conclusion if their film were to totally live up to its premise.
Goons are dispatched with baseball bats, switchblades and, in an inventive twist, a pope’s hat ringed by metal teeth. The device recalls the titular weapon of the classic kung fu film Master of the Flying Guillotine. Lastly, the ultimate confrontation between Sister Yvonne and Scratch doesn’t disappoint either, with a great crowd-pleasing final image.
It’s difficult to say why nunsploitation is making a comeback in film these days, from Australian features like Dominic Deacon’s Bad Habits to bank robbers dressing up in grotesque nun costumes in Ben Affleck’s The Town. It also appears to be a subgenre that can only go so far. But, luckily, Hansen and Regan have gotten in on the action early and have contributed a fine and fun entry that could possibly inspire much more nun bad-assery to come.