The Church (1989)

Michele Soavi’s second feature apparently began life as a Lamberto Bava film (the film was supposed to be the third in Bava’s Demons series) to be produced by Dario Argento, who had been Soavi’s mentor in the Italian industry during the 80s… not sure why Bava Jr pulled out, but it let Soavi step up to the plate again. Argento seems to have been something of a difficult producer, but the end result somehow managed to avoid being a mere Argento knock-off. Rather, the thick layer of “what the fuck” coating The Church was much more reminiscent of early 80s Lucio Fulci We begin in the Middle Ages with the Teutonic Knights destroying a village of supposed devil worshippers, with all the bodies being hurled into a pit, which is covered over and the titular church is built on top of it to seal in the goodness… er, evil. In the present, the church has just acquired a new librarian, who finds an odd bit of manuscript that leads him to inadvertently break the seal. Whereupon all hell breaks loose, or something. The Church starts out fairly sensible, but gets stranger and stranger as it progresses, until by the last act I’m frankly unsure about most of the fine detail and only really understand what the hell’s (ho ho!) going on in very broad outline. And yet—not unlike with StageFright—this is where Soavi does his best stuff; it may be time to suspend attempts at logic and comprehension, but it looks awfully cool… if Soavi was taking cues on befuddlement from Fulci, he somehow made his film work in a way that Fulci’s horrors have never quite done for me. It probably could’ve withstood a little tightening up, and some of the (over)acting is a bit much, but I’ll take this Argento production over most of Argento’s own post-Suspiria films. It’s some creepy shit, not least the bit when the ancient bishop announces he’s quite happy not to stop all hell breaking loose if it means the destruction of the whole world…

Written for the 3rd Annual Italian Horror Blogathon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

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