by Rich Moreland
In this first installment on Monxa Mala, we’ll set the stage for the film.
Photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent films. The Inquisition drawing is from gregfallis.com.
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This latest Jac Avila niche creation celebrates the visual delights that enrich his fan base. Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala is a variance of the earlier Maleficarum, also a Pachamama/Decadent Cinema offering that tells the story of persecuted lovers who are condemned as witches. Both productions focus on the Inquisition tortures carried out in the name of the Church some five hundred plus years ago.
Amy Hesketh, who appears in the original movie, serves as the executive producer for this update. Amy is not on-screen this time around and her absence is regretfully noted. On the other hand, Amy’s long-time filming compadre, Mila Joya, returns for a role in which she is less a victim, at least on the surface, than a reluctant whip-wielding punisher. More on that later.
Jac Avila is the writer and director of Monxa Mala, scoring another winner for the BDSM horror genre that is his specialty. With enough deviltry to make the story believable, he once again assumes the role of the torturer. What is particular about this film is that Jac is really “a director within a director.” His on-screen persona is commanding the nuns to satisfy his will just as off-camera he is moving the players around on the stage, so to speak.
Speaking of the nuns and novices, Monxa Mala introduces a talented group of female performers whose comeliness is a perfect fit for the dark evils of the dungeon. Their punishments will surely please BDSM aficionados.
Make no mistake, however, there’s more than just “tie ‘em an’ beat ‘em” to this movie. It has psychological implications that reach beyond sadomasochistic themes.
Let’s take an in-depth look at all of this beginning with the characters that occupy the story.
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Leticia (Simonne de la Riva): The Marquise’s daughter. She organizes a pagan feast that breaks “the sacred silence of the monastery” and is punished for her transgression.
Lucrecia (Mila Joya): The Enforcer. She is loyal to the Father. When he orders a scourging to “correct” a deviant novice, Lucrecia steps in to do his bidding.
Father Agustinus (Jac Avila): The “Mad Monk.” He sets it upon himself to “correct” novices to the holy order when they step out of line. The Father runs the underground dungeon show and loves the art of inflicting pain.
Barbara (Daniela Borda): The sexually-charged novice. She carries a prize the Father bequeathed to her, or rather inside her. Barbara desires to be the Enforcer and accommodates the Father for her own gain.
Julia (Stephanie Vargas): The masochist. Eager for the pain is this novice’s forte. Julia suffers the welts of humiliation with a smile while having a nasty sadistic streak of her own. When it comes to “getting off” on pain—be it receiving or giving—her favorite phrase is, “It’s my turn now.”
Martina (Graciela Tamayo): The quiet observer. Martina intercedes for the tortured souls under the Father’s wrath. But, as they say in politics and crime, she knows where the bodies are buried. “The walls are guarding secrets,” she says.
Justa (Inces Copa): The wrong nun in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because she is loyal to Leticia, she is more of a nuisance than the Father can endure.
Four images of importance dominate the film. First is the whipping post where the crucifixions are also carried out. It’s a Freudian phallic symbol and central to the male dominance of the dungeon. Leticia’s suffering while manacled to it is the main focus of the film. Later, Lucrecia also spends time there when her usefulness to the Father is finished.
Second is the metal collar. Attached to the post, it immobilizes its victim, holding her in place for her punishment. The circular shape is a Freudian symbol for female genitalia, as is the wheel, of course, and a reminder that the Father controls the most intimate of female parts for his pleasure. When Leticia and Lucrecia endure their tribulations, the collar enforces their submission.
The third is the rack. Its has a depraved attraction for the Father who “treats” the condemned to its misery.
The last major image is the flaming kettle where the branding iron awaits the Father’s bidding. Leticia is its victim. Simply put, the kettle and its hot coals are the fires of Hell awaiting her, at least in the Father’s eyes.
The Back Story
By the Early Middle Ages, the Church’s patriarchal, anti-woman attitude dominated Europe. Though fighting heresy was their major thrust, churchmen had a history of torturing misguided nonbelievers condemned for dancing with the Devil. The abused victims were often the weaker sex vulnerable to Beelzebub’s seduction.
For some holy men, the Church’s tribunal, known as the Inquisition, turned a blind eye to its own sexual licentiousness and sadism that victimized many women. Such was the case with another Lucrecia, a 16th century Spanish girl whose dreams and imaginations were too much for the king. She was charged with heresy, imprisoned and tortured.
Another female was the virgin martyr Saint Leticia whose Spanish cult is celebrated through feasting. According to legend, Leticia was executed along with the virgin followers of St. Ursula in the Early Middle Ages. No surprise then that Leticia in this film is accused of promoting a pagan repast.
It’s worth mentioning that Inquisition tortures were often carried out by the civil authorities who were not subject to the control of the Church. Their barbarity comes from the Roman word for the savage, the non-citizen: the barbarian.
Notice that the novice in Monxa Mala who has not yet taken her vows remains outside of the holy order. Her name is Barbara and she wants to be an Enforcer.
In this film, the Father is a metaphor for the church and uses his dungeon devices to satisfy his personal sexual and sadistic urges. As for the women of Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala, there’s more than accusations of impiety at work here. They are victims of medieval sex trafficking by western civilization’s most stellar institution.
Of course, Maleficarum is a reference to witches and we’re left with the question of a cover-up. Who is the Devil in this story and are the nuns worshiping him?
A Note on the Production
The set for Monxa Mala is a modified version of the underground chamber that appears in other Jac Avila films. Because of its limited size, the stage gets crowded at times.
However, the cinematography is excellent and the camera is adept at placing everyone in the right position for each scene so that none of the visual impact of the story is lost.
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In Part Two, we’ll examine Monxa Mala as a sadomasochistic horror tale.