Director: Michele Soavi
Starring: Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana, Feodor Chapliapin Jr. Barbara Cupisti, Antonella Vitale, Asia Argento .Italy. 1h 42m
I’d like to suggest that Michele Soavi’s The Church (1989) is a good movie, but the least I could say is that it’s interesting, on occasions quite fascinating and occasionally on board with Clive Barker for it’s sexy bodies and ugly monster creepiness. But is it a good movie?! Between the incoherent plot and awkward characters it sells a mystical story and it’s highly entertaining and that’s what counts.
Originally intended to be part of producer/co-writer Dario Argento’s loosely connected Demoni series, The Church retains a lot of his zany themes, such as trapping everyone in a single location and a strange demonic possession that travels as an infection. But you can’t escape the incoherence, It doesn’t lend itself to being a plot hole but raises questions. The film opens with a pretty clunky period episode in which a bunch of quasi-Templar Knights kill off an entire village of innocent heathens, after tossing all of the bodies into a giant put that later becomes the foundations of the church, why is there a ton of resurrected demonic forces and satanic panic going on in the future? Maybe this was an oversight when the film was re written from being Demoni 3 to the Church? There seems to always be a lack of study off the occult in Argentos films, It doesn’t detract from their fun, but does open them up for ridicule.
In general it has cultural moments, the priesthood is headed by The Bishop, totally unnamed but acted by the ultimate by Feodor Chaiapin Jr, who’s better known for his striking role in Name of the Rose, his universal craggy face speaks of religious fanaticism, while the level headedness comes form the cool suave Hugh Quarshie, as Father Gus, when he’s not being priestly he’s practicing archery.
You Haven’t Got a prayer
The future of the church changes when a money hungry librarian Evan (Arana) arrives with the notion that there’s treasure hidden in the foundations, often egged on by an incredibly young Asia Argento who plays a plucky kid who loves to study within the church, eventually he’s does find something , just the mass, and accidentally gets scratched by a demon while investigating. This quickly turns into a really gory infection which soon turns explosively gory in a phone box when he’s getting to call his love interest moaning down the phone at her, he later tips his heart out and stares at it then turns v up as his ladies house, now with a fluffy goat head and starts making out with her windows but while he’s acting pervy she jumps through the window and is rescued by the police.
“Why isn’t anybody doing anything to get me out of here?”
Much of the film is like that, slices of gore and horror with an uneasy feeling until an excuse to lock a bunch of randoms inn the church plays out, a fashion model and school trip seem to bed enough morality to kick the demons into override and once locked firmly inside all help breaks loose. People are impaled on jackhammers, iron fences, there’s a bit of dark sexual tension and release, gargoyles run off with a pretty girl and the demonic hijinks doesn’t intend to stop as the gates to help are opened and the fate of the world is in the balance.
There’s a lot of disturbing imagery, not so much blood and puss as the other demoni films but you’ll find an equally foreboding atmosphere and that made of writhing bodies is bound to linger for some time. There’s a strange element of fun in this dreamy world of paranormal invasions that closes with a chilling message , time to say a few hail marys.
Related: The Sect (1991), Demons (1985)
Lists: Opening the Gates of Hell, Vol 1, Vol2,
Spotlight: Asia Argento, Tomas Arana, Hugh Quarshie,