Killer Nun (1979) by Guilio Berruti

Director: Guilio Berruti
Year: 1979
Country: Italy
Alternate Titles: Suor omicidi; La monja homicida; La petite soeur du diable
Genre: Nunsploitation; Giallo; Exploitation

Carrying out her duties to the church, a nun finds herself unwilling to go on when she’s diagnosed with cancer and leaves to find her sanity, only to come across the realization that she may be the killer behind the spate of murders at a local insane asylum and tries to clear her name.


There was quite a lot to like with this effort. Among the more enjoyable aspects here is the strong combination of exploitation elements with the mixture of the nunsploitation and giallo fixtures. The nunsploitation is quite obvious, taking the idea of the strong, commanding superior with a domineering touch to how she treats the other sisters in the congregation reprimanded everyone in sight regardless of the nature of the offense. With that firmly established, the resulting sleaze apparent in such a situation makes the continuing lesbian dalliances and traditional male seduction scenes expected but no less welcome considering the figures involved even when it goes beyond the asylum walls for several fine, kinky interludes.

That, in turn, leads to the film’s striking thriller moments when they do arise. The first incident with the resident who gets thrown out of the balcony window to the ground below is quite shocking, while a later scene showing the killer stalking another resident after engaging in sexual dalliances with a patient and getting cotton stuffed into their mouth all while outside in a torrential rainstorm. The centerpiece sequence, where the killer stalks a victim bound with surgical bandages and stuck with pins and a scalpel, displays a far more gruesome and nasty edge than expected which is the case with a later scene showing the killer stalking a handicapped victim desperately climbing towards his walking crutches. Combined with a solid motive for the deaths to occur, there are some rather enjoyable elements to come from this.

There are several big flaws within this one. The biggest issue is that there’s so much focus early on with the nunsploitation angle that it never really adapts the thriller aspects until way too late to be of much interest for genre fanatics. The first murder doesn’t occur until nearly halfway through the film and it doesn’t strike the least bit worthy of an investigation until after the next body is discovered as the resulting time is spent on the psychological breakdowns of her psyche. The exploration of her psyche having been shattered with the physical diagnosis and resulting change in behavior does well to get us into her character but none of that really helps build-up the film’s thriller aspects that well.

The other factor with this one is the underwhelming resolution that comes along with the second half of the film. Rather than end this in any kind of satisfactory manner, the ending is a real letdown centered around the twist revealing the killer’s identity. This is no mystery at all since it‘s all telegraphed from the first minute of the film regarding who the killer actually is and so the big shocking reveal at the end has no real weight or impact despite actually seeing how they have gotten away with it. The psychological meltdowns are completely obvious red-herrings in the genre’s structure which makes it somewhat unnecessary, leaving this one with some minor letdown moments.

Overview: ***/5
Featuring plenty of fine exploitation elements at points but somewhat underwhelming when it gets to the film's giallo aspects, this certainly works much better as the former than the latter. This is much more worthwhile for Nunsploitation fans than giallo stalwarts as the fans are centered more around that aspect of the film, yet genre completionists or curious about the combination should still look into this one.