The Church (1988)
Director: Michele Soavi
Hugh Quarshie/Father Gus
In Medieval times, a band of religious Knights murder some town folk who are suspected of being devil worshippers. After the massacre, the Knights bury the dead bodies and build a church over it. Years later, the church’s new librarian Evan (Arana) unwittingly unleashes the dormant evil that lies beneath the church floor. Mucho possessions and over-the-top kills ensue.
Talk about an uneven flick. "The Church" has a lot going for it on a technical standpoint, but unfortunately the flawed script never measures up to its gripping visuals. What a damn shame! This one could’ve been a masterpiece instead of just a decent genre effort. Let's start with the positive elements.
This movie is known as "Demons 3" in some countries, but trust my pointy ass...it doesn’t have much to do with the excessive Lamberto Bava films. Sure, some of the plot conventions are similar but the approach Soavi takes with the narrative is polar opposite to Bava’s. I would call this flick an artsy horror opus. It’s very style-heavy (some of the shots in here blew my freaking mind), the atmosphere is extremely Gothic (wait until you see the church’s architecture), the symbolism is very prominent (some of it religious, some of it sexual), the scares are delivered in a subtle fashion (all about those statues and fading paintings), the pace is methodically slow and the only actual demons in the house are a fish-like creature and a horny goat boy pulling a Ron Jeremy (he’s having sex with a chick "Rosemary's Baby"-style). Soavi learned a neato trick or two from his master (Argento) and it shows. Couple that with an engaging and trippy score and you get a solid visual/audio treat.
Now the acid in this Martini is definitely the screenplay. I did like some of its ideas (the reincarnation bit, the dream sequence, the church’s mechanism) but in the long run, it loses its footing. This baby’s first hour establishes two main characters (Evan and Lisa) and the tale is mostly told through their eyes for a while. The first hour is also unique and pretty daring. It had me by the balls! But for some odd reason, the script abruptly drops both leads and its original flavor at the one hour mark to impose upon us a bunch of paper thin, un-likeable characters and an overly familiar scenario (people trapped in the church, getting possessed one by one). Talk about a switch in direction! What happened here? Writers block? Lack of inspiration? Not only did I not give a rat’s ass about these new characters, but they also annoyed the living shite out of me. Let me give you insight as to who they are so you’ll understand what I’m rambling about: A vain fashion model and her “hip” crew (uh-oh), a teacher and her bratty students (we’re in big trouble), an elderly couple who talk too much (it's getting worse) and two bickering love birds (we’re fucked). Tag to that some awful dialogue that goes from cheesy (what was up with that "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" line?) to mumbo jumbo-laden and you get a script that was in dire need of a good polish.
But I still enjoyed "The Church" on some plane of existence. American directors definitely don’t direct their films like the Italians. Talk about flair and visual panache! You go, Soavi! The film also sports a couple of groovy gore shows, a charismatic young Asia Argento (she’s a cutie) and some really "out there" imagery (the pile of body rising out of the ground, the demon fornication, the surreal POV car ride in the city) that are worth seeing. Soavi is a talented director (just see "Dellamorte Dellamore" aka "Cemetery Man" to be convinced) but he needs to be pickier with his scripts. Let's pray.
This one’s heavy on the gravy. We get a dude pulling out his heart, a jackhammer impaling, a fence impaling (in the throat…nice), a statue impaling (yes, all about impaling in this flick) a severed head and one kick-ass sequence where a chick gets squashed by a Subway car.
NOTE: The bad dubbing doesn’t help anybody’s case. Tomas Arana (Evan) convinced me but I cringed whenever his close-ups came up. Barbara Cupisti (Lisa) is no Cate Blanchett but at least she’s nice to look at. Young Asia Argento (Lotte) showcases the same magnetism which she has today and kinda looks like a young Danielle Harris. Hugh Quarshie (Father Gus) does what he has to do and comes out of this, not looking too bad.
T & A
The ladies get some bare-chested men (yes, Arana too) and we get a random female butt and tit shot (Cupisti).
Soavi displays his trademark high style and I ate it up like Dirty Harry at a gun shop. I’m talking wild and creative shots, slow mo, some crazy POV shots of a car racing in the over-lit streets (beautiful scene) and Gothic mood galore. This guy is a champ!
Phillip Glass (I loved his track), Keith Emerson, Goblin (oh yeah!), Fabio Pignatelli and Simon Boswell all contributed to the awesome, atmospheric and engaging music that’s in this flick. Great stuff! One question though, who was responsible for that lousy rock song?
Distributor: Anchor Bay
IMAGE: We get a widescreen anamorphic 1:85:1. that kicks all kinds of ass! The colors are vibrant, and the dark sequences are clear.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital Surround Ex Sound is astounding. The soundtrack almost made my walls crack with its power. Good shite!
EXTRAS: Apart from the way slick Animated Menu we only get a Theatrical Trailer and a written Michele Soavi Bio. Where’s my commentary? The DVD is empty in terms of extras.
"The Church" is dragged down by its "all over the place" screenplay but it's still worth a gander. If you’re fan of Italian genre cinema or if like me, you’re a style whore who gets off on atmosphere and insane visuals, than I encourage you to check it out. See it if only for a young Asia Argento acting, a demon having horny, steamy sex, the Subway car incident and Soavi's out-of-this-world camera shots. This man is so on!
"The Church" was shot in Budapest Hungary.
This film was co-written and produced by Dario Argento.
Other titles for The Church are: Cathedral of Demons, Demon Cathedral, Demons 3 and In the Land of the Demons.