Mondo Macabro: Satanico Pandemonium (1975) - Reviewed

"Lord, if I worshipped you because I feared Hell, then let me burn in Hell. If I loved you only in promise of Heaven, then exclude me from it. But if I loved you for yourself, then I am your daughter. Your daughter, Lord. Don't deny me your wonders."

Satanico Pandemonium (1975) is quite an elegant Mexican entry in the so-called Nunsploitation genre, and while it is full of titillation and nudity (and a fair bit of gore) it also takes a symbolic and dream-like approach in its narrative. 

Sister María (Cecilia Pezet) is a mild-mannered and pious nun living out her days in a convent. She is approached in the forest by a naked middle-aged man (Enrique Rocha) who is dripping wet, and who also exudes an intense and malevolent sexual energy. María runs away frightened to death, but over the course of the film she is haunted by visions of this man (who eventually calls himself Lucifer) and she feels compelled to act out in disturbing and blasphemous ways. The pacing of the film is languid and María's decent into debauchery is gradual and sinister. There is a thin line between religious ecstasy and sexual ecstasy, which is depicted during a scene where María participates in a round of self-flagellation--if one only listened to the audio it would be hard to discern if she was whipping herself or masturbating.

The set-pieces in the latter half of the film are beautifully filmed with lots of bright colors and outdoor vistas to contrast with the drab interior of the convent. The musical score is excellent with trippy ominous synth music mixed with more traditional style compositions. Although Satanico Pandemonium is more of a low-key film, there are some gruesome sequences and it dips its toe into a few torture scenes though they are brief. The more disturbing aspects come from María trying to seduce a young teenage boy, an unfortunate recipient of her newly realized sexual lust. Many films have explored the idea of Satan/Lucifer representing forbidden desires, and this one in particular leans heavily into that metaphor, even being so blunt as to have Lucifer offering María and apple to eat, a reference to the snake in the Garden of Eden tempting Eve with the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. The pacing of the film, particularly in the second act drags quite a bit, but the climax makes up for it, and it channels a bit of the lunacy from Ken Russell's The Devils (1971), albeit on a much smaller scale.

Mondo Macabro's Blu-ray release has two different HD transfers to choose from, and I appreciate them going above and beyond to provide their viewers with these kinds of choices. The extras are rounded out with an interview with the film's writer, a short feature on Nunsploitation films, and a full length commentary featuring Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger.

--Michelle Kisner