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By Rachel Morgan | September 6, 2004

When you think of the perfect location for a horror film about rabid nuns, Hawaii isn’t the first place that comes to mind, but “The Nundead” isn’t your typical horror film and in this case Hawaii works just fine. “The Nundead” is actually less of a horror movie and more of an experimental narrative. It’s a video art picture reminiscent of many of the college projects that every film student has been subjected to. All of the elements of a collegiate video are present: the strobe light, the student apartment as a location, time-lapse footage. The movie is not easy to summarize, as the narrative story is not exactly clear. To avoid subjective interpretation I will paraphrase the synopsis on the box; it is the tale of Torso, an institutionalized mental patient, who is purchased by a herd of evil nuns. Torso (Raym C. Hensley) escapes the grasp of the Order and discovers that his hometown of Honolulu has been deserted and he is alone and trapped on the island. He rushes home to his apartment in hopes it will be a safe haven, but instead of finding solace he comes face-to-face with evil in the form of a wicked nun that happens to be lurking in his bathroom.

The film is essentially an 85-minute montage of images coupled with sound design (as opposed to a movie with any kind of true narrative frame). There is no dialogue and it is very obviously shot on video. Many of the included images are cleverly composed and cool to look at and the cinematography is superb in areas, but ultimately the film would work better as a 20 minute experimental short. As a feature the effort seems extremely sophomoric and tedious. Most of the scenes are just too damn long; several are pure black covered only by the sound of breathing. Many just seem pointless. I personally don’t find much enjoyment in watching someone light a bunch of candles for several minutes. More than a few of the shots are repeated over and over again (one of a cockroach in particular), the repetition is unnecessary and tiring. Included is at least one scene that contains some action: the bathroom fight between Torso and an evil nun (Kimberly White). The segment rivals the fight scene in “They Live” (in length not in content or quality). I’m assuming the scenario is supposed to be amusing, because anytime hair gel is used as a weapon, comedy must be intended; but in “The Nundead”, it’s just not clear if humor was deliberate or accidental. The actor’s facial expressions during this scene are overly dramatic (to the point of being silly) and overdone even if comedy is the goal. Blatant references to “28 Days Later” and “The Evil Dead” trilogy are blaringly obvious in the film but there’s nothing wrong with that, actually it’s a welcome appendage in this case.

Numerous sections of the movie display a series of exterior beauty shots, the intention seems to be to illustrate that Honolulu is indeed deserted. The images are striking (it is Hawaii after all), but they play out a bit like a slideshow on the Yahoo travel site. The sound design is decent, but typical and it is especially noticeable due to the lack of dialogue. While the soundtrack is acceptable, in this instance it could really stand to be a bit more supportive. “The Nundead” is a valiant effort, but in the end it is a bit too abstract and painfully drawn out.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, the crew does have obvious promise and with the right idea and budget (enough to buy film stock) they have the potential to crank out some seriously decent work.

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