The Convent (UK, 2018)

A woman believed to be saved finds out there’s more at stake in this period horror film from filmmaker Paul Hyett.

In the year 1619 in England, Persephone has been accused of a crime and is arrested and put on trial. When she is about to be sentenced, she is saved by the Reverend Mother, who offers the young woman a chance for a new life and hope. Convinced, Persephone takes up on Reverend Mother’s offer and joins the Order, a small religious retreat located in a secluded Priory. There, Persephone meets the other Sisters of the Order, but soon something strange happens.

Persephone begins to experience strange visions and on top of that, the visions begin to affect and influence the other Sisters to seek atonement by insane means. Ellis, a young man and friend of Persephone’s, realizes something doesn’t add up. As he searches for answers involving the Order, he comes up empty when the villagers refuse to mention anything involving them. Meanwhile, Persephone soon discovers that there may not be a chance for hope in the Order, but something more sinister is looming.

Something of a rarity these days, period piece horror films can have their hits and misses. It all depends on the material used and the performances of the cast. In this case, this is a middle of the road. It some has good moments, but there are also some that really act more as a hindrance rather than elevation of the film.

The good comes in the form of the performances as well as the set direction. Art director Hattie Gent brings light ironically to depict the darkness of 17th-century England, especially with the setting of the Priory of the Order, the religious sect where Mother Superior, played by The Worst Witch’s Claire Higgins (in a bit of a haunting performance), leads our protagonist Persephone, played by Hannah Arterton, who seeks redemption and salvation after she is accused of being a witch. What’s even more insane is the Reverend Mother’s reactions to the evil haunting presence of the entity that haunts the nuns and followers as if she knew all about it and was willing to face the consequences.

The bad comes in the form of a subplot involving the character of Eliis, played by Freddy Carter, as he seeks for answers involving the Order. Perhaps the only reason he is there is to act as filler as the overall film only runs 80 minutes. If they stretched more on the focus inside the Priory and Persephone’s attempts to find a way out of the chaos and her attempts to make things right, it would have been more watchable. In addition, I understand this is an indie feature, but even some of the visual effects used in the film seem more on the level of 1990s than anything from the millennium. On the other hand, the practical effects are worth checking out as they will make some horror fans proud.

In conclusion, The Convent, is a middle of the road. It’s not completely bad, but it’s not completely great. It makes the most of what it has but the visual effects can be quite a turn off. However, the practical effects and performances from Claire Higgins and Hannah Arterton are a plus.

WFG RATING: C

Vertical Entertainment presents a Templeheart Films production in association with Sterling Pictures and Enmar Productions. Director: Paul Hyett. Producers: Marcia Do Vales and Michael Riley. Writers: Paul Hyett and Conal Palmer; based on an original screenplay by Gregory Blair. Cinematography: Neil Oseman. Editing: Paul Hyett and Joseph Tims.

Cast: Hannah Arterton, Claire Higgins, Freddy Carter, Michael Ironside, Rosie Day, Sian Breckin, Katie Sheridan, Ania Marson, Ayvianna Snow, Amelia Bennett, Bethan Walker.

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