High-Kick the Holy Tabarnakle
Review: N.U.N.S. WITH NUNCHUCKS
Quebec is ruled by the nationalist Catholic Association of Quebec who wants to govern with a firm grip of the cross. The only one who can stop their malicious leader Jeanne Versacon, is the organization called National Union of National Spies N.U.N.S.) who will send a couple of agents posing as nuns to meet with Versacon, to take her out once and for all.
The title of the 15-minute short film N.U.N.S. with Nunchucks alone is enough to activate all our dirty guilty pleasure neurons that make us pick Corman over Bergman, against our better judgement. The title isn’t misleading, but spot-on. “N.U.N.S with Nunchucks” is a defiant trash-fest, gleefully pillaging the graveyard of XYZ-category genre mutations of the past. Faded filmstock and bad dubbing. Overacting and flashy fonts. Analogue effects and crazy accents. And a woman with an eye-patch. What’s eviler than an eye-patch?
It’s clear from this description that “N.U.N.S. with Nunchucks” is an exercise in style and aesthetics, and the form rules supreme here. Quite often, it manages to emulate its predecessors, hitting that specific spot between cringe, laughter and endorphin rush of pure pleasure. It’s swift with relaying the story and building its own universe, managing somehow to pack a whole alternate reality into a quarter of an hour. Some of the backstory is given via text cards that could each be a basis for a spin-off.
But with all that style, is there room for substance? At first glance it is easy to notice discrepancies and shortcomings in the plot. The author has chosen to give one N.U.N.S. member Betty Powell (Natasha Perry-Fagant) “X-Ray vision”, but throughout the film it is being used completely randomly, and in a crucial scene it functions more like some sort of a stun laser. Come to think of it: what use would X-ray vision have in combat?
The omissions, on the other hand, are elegant – a hippie dude is arrested at the bar, and we hear his say: “Do you know who my father is?” In the following scene, Versacon is cursing at his henchmen: “You idiots didn’t ask for identification?” There’s a lot more story there, and those loose ends that lead us deeper into the Québec capital Los Mutantes lore, light up the imagination. So, at times the film feels like a torn-out page from a comic book, making Los Mutantes strangely reminiscent of Mega-City One from “Judge Dredd” – a sprawling megalopolis on the East coast of North America that had at some point also engulfed the Quebec-Windsor corridor.
The underlying socio-political commentary is quite intriguing, too. I am not sure how much of it I could grasp, but Catholic Association of Quebec seems to stand for Coalition Avenir Québec (“Coalition for Quebec’s Future”), a Quebec nationalist-conservative party,
They both share an acronym C.A.Q., and Jeanne Versacon could be a reference to the fact that the real-life C.A.Q. has had predominantly female party leaders. The problem in question seems to be a piece of legislation called Bill 21 (referred to as Bill 2100 in the film) – a recently passed Quebec law stating that “The State of Québec is a lay state”, and people in public service are forbidden to wear religious symbols of any kind. The law, tabled by C.A.Q., has been seen as Islamophobic and targeted especially at Islamic women, because for them covering their face is a necessary part of religion. The reason to take out Versacon is verbalized by one of the NUNs agents Freda Davis “Alejandra Jiménez) in a snappy one-liner: “Maybe because no muslim ever rang my doorbell preaching about their lord and saviour”.
In the description of the (failed) gofundme campaign from January 2021, the director Lorenzo Gutiérrez emphasizes that “N.U.N.S. with Nunchucks” is a “personal film based upon the recent passing of Bill 21, my own experiences growing up in Quebec, and influenced by my love for science fiction, exploitation cinema, wrestling, and baseball.”
The film wins a lot from this background, but it is not necessarily highlighted in the film, so we are largely left with a campy sci-fi adventure, which is a bit unfair to the film. It has to rely on aesthetics, and the retro form is used in such an over-extensive manner that it excuses many discrepancies in content. The film just piles on everything, up to a cue card “To be continued in… “The Moth-Woman from Planet XYZ-19.”, and it’s clearly too much, but it’s also refreshing to see someone journey so boldly beyond the confines of good taste, when most students in film schools seem to be primarily concerned with appearances. “N.U.N.S. with Nunchucks” is a film that features all the things you love to hate, and all the things you hate to love. The film is as effective as the cross-shaped nunchucks wielded by the nuns. You are almost certain to end up with a black eye when handling a weapon like this, but at least you do it in style.
- all photos used in the review are screenshots from the movie