The 1960s-70s saw copious amounts of on-screen self-flagellation, brutal witch-hunting, delirious possessions and sadistic exorcisms, culminating into the so-called ‘nunsploitation’ genre. Beyond the desire to shock and titillate, many of these films, most notably Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), were part of the time’s questioning of all power structures, pitching repressive, corrupt and hypocritical religious authorities against individual freedom and morality. In particular, films such as Gianfranco Mingozzi’s Flavia the Heretic (1974) denounced the oppression of women in patriarchal society, and pictured their revolt through disobedience and deviant sexuality.
This deviant sexuality was also sometimes part of an alternative form of worship connected to natural forces, as in Juan López Moctezuma’s Alucarda (1977). For Moctezuma, as for his fellow Panique associate Alejandro Jodorowsky, spiritual initiation involved an element of violence, although not the same kind of violence as that of the Catholic Church, as depicted in many of these films. The lecture will explore the various ways in which desire, cruelty, power and religion are configured in the cinema of the period.
Lecture delivered at The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London, The Horse Hospital, 14 April 2016.