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Analog Abattoir: “ALUCARDA” Is A Nunsploitation Masterpiece And An Unholy Tour De Force of Mexican Horror

Monday, May 13, 2024 | Analog Abattoir


Starring Tina Romero, Susana Kamini and David Silva
Written by Juan López Moctezuma and Alexis Arroyo
Directed by Juan López Moctezuma
Released on DVD in 2002 by Mondo Macabro

Look, from what I understand nunsploitation is having a moment. For a subgenre that has been so frequently and deliberately pushed into the background, I revel in its resurgence. However, the issue is that the true MVPs of nunsploitation would body these newcomers. The Nun II: Back In The Habit? Ken Russell’s The Devils would powerbomb you into hamburger. The First Omen? ALUCARDA is going to leap off the top turnbuckle and give you 666 consecutive concussions. There is a gulf between these newbies and the old guard when it comes to both quality and the degree of transgression, and I’m here to talk about one of the best to ever do it.

The stage is set as Alucarda is born in an abandoned palace. Her mother dies during the birth, and Alucarda is taken to a convent by a mysterious hunchbacked Romani. Years later, a teenaged Alucarda (Tina Romero) meets and quickly befriends Justine (Susana Kamini), an orphaned newcomer. While exploring the forest, they meet up with the familiar hunchbacked figure, who entices them with trinkets and talk of magic. Wandering further, the girls end up in the abandoned palace from the beginning of the film. Exploring the ruin, they open Alucarda’s mother’s grave. Uncovering the crypt unleashes a diabolical force that first possesses them before immolating (literally and figuratively) all traces of Christianity in its wake.

You’re probably wondering what makes ALUCARDA so blasphemous. After all, this synopsis could describe any number of Hammer or Hammer-adjacent films. First and foremost, toast two halves of ciabatta and get a good aioli spread on there because I am about to put my fist in between and give you an artisanal knuckle sandwich! The existence of this movie alone is a feat. Roman Catholicism is the dominant faith in Mexico and a core element of the country’s culture. Comparatively, ALUCARDA is the black metal of  Mexican cinema. As Justine and Alucarda fall victim to demonic possession, all manner of religious imagery is defiled and destroyed. We see a blood ritual turned orgy and watch as the possessed girls interrupt mass to announce their fealty to Satan. The climax features flames engulfing a massive effigy of the Crucifixion. The violence is powerful, and the explicit nature of these scenes feels truly controversial. What proves even more incendiary is how the religious leaders of the convent respond. Self-appointed as judge, jury and executioner, they attempt to banish the spreading Satanic force from their charges through flogging, death and exorcism by way of exsanguination. The local physician (The actor who also plays the hunchback/satyr/source of Satanic temptation) balks at this cruelty but can find no medical cure for the possessing force. 

I would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the fantastic front-and-center queer romance of ALUCARDA. Justine and Alucarda are introduced in the film, and we immediately see a flirtation between them. Alucarda vibrantly pursues Justine, professing her love, and the two ultimately join in an intimate ceremony of blood. The concept of the girls as vampire lovers makes even more sense when considering the film’s connection to the horror novella, Carmilla. Predating Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Sheridan La Fanu’s story tells of a young woman who becomes the romantic interest of a female vampire. The disgust and horror of the convent in response to these girls can be readily interpreted as organized religion’s frequent condemnation of same-sex love, its attempts to separate the women is a major plot point. As the film comes to a hyper-violent conclusion, you can’t help but empathize with Alucarda in her retribution against the convent. Unmasked, the leaders’ pious tolerance proves shallow – their judgment as destructive as the forces they claim to oppose. 

We exist during a time when buzzwords infect everything. The notion of art being “controversial” or” explicit” in our modern age usually ends up hyperbolic at best – and half-assed advertising at worst. Nearly half a century later, ALUCARDA stands the test of time as truly transgressive horror cinema for all the best reasons. This is not some slickly produced metal album filled with perfectly mastered riffs and benign calls to sin. ALUCARDA is Pentagram, the first full-length album by Norwegian black metal legends Gorgoroth. Grainy, passionate, and full of guttural, unholy screams, you can almost taste the brimstone. By the time you see Justine rise from a blood-filled coffin like a reborn Elizabeth Bathory, you’ll be smearing the corpsepaint on your face, ready to howl at the blasphemous moon. 

Death to false horror,
Dr. Benny Graves

Benjamin Grobshteyn
The thrash metal Marc Maron, Dr. Benny Graves serves as arch-fiend of the analog abattoir. With a deep love for shock rock, schlock horror, and dead media, he can often be found searching the wasteland for the right SOV horror to sate his lust for trash-cinema. Dr. Graves resides in the unholy circle of hell known as New Jersey.