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THE CHURCH (1989)
aka CATHEDRAL OF DEMONS, DEMON CATHEDRAL, IN THE LAND OF DEMONS, DEMONS 3
Directed by Michele Soavi
Written by Nick Alexander (dialogue: English version), Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti, Lamberto Bava, Michele Soavi (story and screenplay), Fabrizio Bava (prologue), based on the story “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas” by M.R. James
Starring Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana, Asia Argento, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Barbara Cupisti, Antonella Vitale, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Roberto Caruso, Roberto Corbiletto, Alina De Simone, Olivia Cupisti, Gianfranco De Grassi, Claire Hardwick, Lars Jorgenson, John Karlsen, Katherine Bell Marjorie, Enrico Osterman, Patrizia Punzo, John Richardson
While I feel that Michele Soavi views sort of like a poor man’s Argento or Bava, I will attest that sometimes he can make some creepy shit happen. THE CHURCH is a ballsy little number taking the gothic locale of an ancient church as the site where Armageddon is born. This film is all sorts of wrong on all sorts of levels, and for that, much like another Soavi film I recently reviewed called THE SECT, I kind of love it.
A pair of archeologists uncover remains of an ancient cult in the bowels of a gigantic church and awaken an ancient power bent on unleashing demons of old. As members of the church become possessed and murdery, a group of people become trapped inside and face all sorts of evil creatures and monsters.
While it lacks the subtle paranoia of SUSPIRIA or even the balls-out insanity of GATES OF HELL, THE CHURCH is a pretty wild trip through all sorts of demonism, perversity, and heresy. There’s a pretty solid disdain for organized religion as a whole, which isn’t as ballsy as the rather twisted way a young Asia Argento (the daughter of the producer of the film and only 13 at the time of filming) is used throughout the story. Argento plays the daughter of one of the church caretakers and there are more than a few scenes of older men threatening to rape or abuse her throughout the entire film. While THE CHURCH is full of creepy gothic ambience and some pretty awesome beasties, those scenes with Asia are the ones that really unsettled me. Asia is actually pretty amazing here, showing promise of the fine actress she would become as she grew up, but I don’t understand how her father Dario would have approved her for such a racy role.
THE CHURCH really gets going in the last half hour when literally all hell breaks loose. Possessed and cultists unite to form a sort of mud-god shrine out of their own wriggling bodies. And a gigantic demon with giant wings and a tongue that would make Gene Simmons jealous appears. Both of these effects are mind-blowing to see come to life and the way the film features them, by tracking through the pillars of the underground caverns of the church, make it all seem surreal and mind-blowing. Soavi knows how to blow you away with spectacle and that’s just what he does after a rather slow first hour.
Watching THE SECT and THE CHURCH together as a double feature is the kind of twisted fun fans of Italian horror are going to eat up. Kudos to Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing for releasing them both so close to one another. While I prefer the no-fucks-given approach to THE SECT, THE CHURCH delivers in some truly crazy moments of end of the world amazement. This version of the film comes with a few special features including; an interiew with Michele Soavi, another with Asia Argento, and trailers.
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