‘Forgive us our sins’
The Convent aka Heretiks is a 2018 British supernatural horror feature film directed by special effects expert Paul Hyett (Howl; The Seasoning House) from a screenplay co-written with Conal Palmer, based on a story by Gregory Blair. It was produced by Marcia Do Vales and Michael Riley.
The movie stars Michael Ironside (Patient Seven, Starship Troopers, Scanners), Clare Higgins (Doctor Who; Hellraiser, Hellbound), Rosie Day (Howl; The Seasoning House), Hannah Arterton, Dilan Gwyn (Dracula Untold), Ciarán McMenamin (Demons TV series), Sian Breckin, Katie Sheridan, Ryan Oliva (Ghost Stories; Howl; The Seasoning House), Petra Bryant, Grahame Fox, Jill Buchanan, Carl Wharton, Sarah Malin, and Ania Marson, Ayvianna Snow.
Director Paul Hyett commented: “Being a lover of classic British horror for years I’ve been wanting to give a classic period tale a modern, harder, stylish edge. Heretiks is the perfect vehicle to do this. It’s both a richly-layered medieval character piece and a wonderful chance to showcase the latest in visual effects and contemporary cinematography while being blessed with some of my favourite actors”.
In the seventeenth century, a young woman, Persephone (Hannah Arterton), is falsely accused, arrested and put on trial for her life. Her fate seems sealed but for the timely intervention of a stranger, the mysterious Reverend Mother (Clare Higgins), who offers Persephone not just sanctuary, but hope.
For the Reverend Mother is the self-appointed leader of a small religious retreat, a secluded Priory, where she and her fellow Sisters can devote their lives to the Lord and seek atonement for their pasts. However, upon her arrival, Persephone is plagued with terrifying visions and soon realises that it’s not Salvation that awaits her, but a battle for her very soul itself…
Heretiks will be available on DVD in the UK via Thunderbird Releasing on 27 May 2019. Vertical Entertainment is distributing the movie in the US as The Convent.
Notwithstanding Michael Ironside’s anachronistic Canadian accent, plus a lead illogically named after a Greek goddess, Heretiks has an atmosphere that’s suffused with 17th century English moroseness.
Subdued lighting lends the right vibe at the gloomy priory where most of the intrigue and hysteria takes place, however the film fails to fully get to grips with the dementia of religious repression it depicts. Elsewhere, slightly jerky camerawork is presumably intended to add verisimilitude, yet feels as if a reliable tripod was simply lacking. Unfortunately, the climactic conflagration is too dimply lit to fully appreciate the viscera on show. Amidst some uneven performances, Clare Higgins stands out as the Mother Superior.
Although Heretiks is undoubtedly a more accomplished production, Hyett’s Howl provides a more robust viewing experience. Paul E. Francis, who also composed for Howl, contributes another satisfyingly horror-themed score.
Adrian J Smith, MOV!ES and MAN!A
“There’s a final confrontation that attempts to wrap up the mystery, but given what happens isn’t drawn from clues in the proceeding eighty minutes it’s an entirely unedifying way to end things. This lack of coherence about what and whose fundamental problem is at the heart of Heretiks makes it drag.” Britflicks
” …The Convent coasts on cryptic conversations and gloomy photography, allowing suggestive ambiance to make up a majority of the movie’s slight fright factor. Not long after a last breath of additional explanation pivots into the third act, The Convent seemingly says “to Hell with it,” abandoning attempts at a nuanced narrative in favor of a finale that suddenly goes into full bore horror mode.” Culture Crypt
“Director Paul Hyett gets good use out of his gloomy gothic locations, and some good performances from Clare Higgins and Michael Ironside, who pops up as a witch finder at the start. Costume design and some dark photography does mean you have trouble telling one nun from another, which gets especially confusing when they start coming back from the dead.” House of Mortal Cinema
” …it goes for a blasted heath look, dingy interiors and authentically scratchy-looking costumes rather than prettified countryside, lush art direction and flimsy nighties. Its crudeness around the edges extends to some of the effects and a few of the performances, but it has a gloomy, sinister, atmosphere and some moments of effective dread going for it.” The Kim Newman Web Site
“As the horrors slowly reveal themselves, Hyett struggles to build tension or palpable fear, and the film’s climax is overly reliant on poorly realised effects work. The performances are fine, save for Ironside’s bafflingly brief and ultimately wasteful cameo, but Heretiks simply fails to draw us in.” Screen Anarchy
“For the most part, The Convent gets its setting right and looks properly olde English […] this is one of the best of the recent crop of evil nun films. There are some excellent makeup and gore, (no surprise as Hyett started out as an effects man) to add icing to the cake. The CGI, admittedly, is another story. Thankfully there’s not much of it.” Voices from the Balcony
“The only purpose we will serve is as carrion for the crows.”
“We performed a conjuring…”
Cast and characters:
- Michael Ironside … The Magistrate
- Rosie Day … Sister Emeline
- Hannah Arterton … Persephone
- Clare Higgins … Reverend Mother
- Dilan Gwyn … Alice Langley
- Ciarán McMenamin … William Carpenter
- Ania Marson … Sister Elizabeth
- Freddy Carter … Ellis
- Petra Bryant … Agnes
- Grahame Fox … Jeremiah
- Katie Sheridan … Sister Margaret
- Carl Wharton … Farmer
- Ryan Oliva … The Diabolical
- Sian Crisp … Annalette
- Sian Breckin … Sister Lucilla