Friday, February 20, 2009
The Church Review
The poster and box cover associated with this film always bugged me. I never trusted it, it just didn't look good to me. But going back through the archives, I realized that this film needed a review and needed to be seen. So if you're an Dario Argento fan, you're going to love this, as it was written by him. I present for your reading displeasure, a review of the 1988 Michele Soavi directed film, The Church.
The Church revolves around a simple plot. A group of knights slaughter a village accused of being witches, only to be the center of a church building in the future. As people discover the grave site in the interior of the church, grave consequences happen and demons are unleashed. Things escalate into a frenzy as a rogue priest must come to save the day.
Here is a trailer for the movie The Church:
The movie starts off with a bit of Medieval Scenery, with knights moving in on a small village. The costumes and picture quality struck me immediately, and I thought it was a great touch in regards to the overall film. The director of photography made some great choices in regards to the look of the film. You really feel like you're in the dark ages with the way the opening sequences play out.
The treatment of the dead bodies is a bit unnerving. The bodies are taken on a large wooden plank and dumped into a large pit, and this portion is not for the easily startled. The make up and lighting make for a massive taboo in this film. You see a pile of naked bodies, no cg, in a pit being buried alive! This is a very unsettling sequence, and it's the beginning of the film!
The movie goes to the future/present day, inside an ordinary Catholic church. A writer finds a cross, and it breaks, revealing a deep cavern. Then it lights up release what appears to be evil spirits! The writer becomes possessed and begins haunting the church. Wait...the writer is also a librarian! Yeah..this film is a little weird,
The movie progresses and a tourist group gets stuck inside and now must fend off the ghosts of people long dead...but not before this film becomes completely weird. There is a scene in which a demon takes a woman and has sex with her, and you see this in full screen without crazy editing. I thought the sex scene with this griffin like demon was completely outlandish and weird. I didn't understand what they were trying to say with that, but I went with it for the sake of it.
There are some carefully placed gore situations. One man gets killed via a large drill, his entrails exploding into a mess of intestines and blood. These are done with such grace that you can see the master work of Argento's other films shine through. Sure this is 1988 but it still looks like Argento to me.
The film is touted as being the third of the Demons movies. It doesn't share a lot in common with those films, outside of the lead role being taken by an African American. One who DOES NOT get killed early on. He's also an African American Priest! Good stuff overall.
Is The Church scary?: Yes. This film is scary on a few notions. First and foremost the scary portions to me is that the movie pinpoints child molestation. In a scene with the librarian a young girl is nearly raped by him after he has become possessed by the demons that are unleashed from the burial site. This under the careful watch of the Church? No, it couldn't be....right? It's weird because in 1988 there were no major Catholic molestation scandals and thinking of that was outlandish. It might not be the intent of the movie, but I found it somewhat ironic that we have major scandal breaking twenty years later, when the film plays around with the notion as an evil thing. The scary part is that within the church there are predators, and whether or not they are possessed is not even the scariest part, the fact that it exists is scary. So be careful if you're a parent.
The second notion that scares me personally is the fact that in the supposed holiest of places, evil is there, waiting underneath. This is especially true in regards to hypocrisy and the church in general. There are a deep metaphors in this film that points fingers at judgmental, closed minded religious people, but it is done in such an over the top way that the metaphor is probably missed and not scary to people that aren't religious in any way. So the second point is hit or miss depending on your relationship with religion of any kind, and especially disheartening if you're an educated Catholic or Christian. They really drive the point home with the way the possession works out, as it is not like the Exorcist at all. It's more like the movie Gothic, if you recall. The demon in this film is hilarious at times, and can be misconstrued completely.
The Church isn't the fastest paced, gore filled, horror film fantasy that you might think of when considering Argento. Then again, his other films weren't exactly fast paced...but this movie is interesting from a lot of different angles. I really thought this film was interesting to note, and it was worth checking out. If the overdubbing doesn't kill you, the metaphorical sexual tension is going to drive you nuts. The Church is an interesting scary film, but it's not the greatest of all time or the end all Italian horror film. The atmosphere of this film is great, so maybe that's the reason to see this film.
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