April 17, 2024

THE CHURCH (4K): Dario's Disciple Delivers

1989 / 102 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

This one crept onto my radar back in the day because I’ve always been a huge Emerson, Lake & Palmer fan and had heard keyboard god Keith Emerson did the music score. But it would be years before I actually got the chance to see it, and was initially disappointed that most of the soundtrack consisted of music by Phillip Glass and one of the guys from Goblin. 

Still, Emerson’s sinister main title track sets the tone for the prologue, where witch-hunting Teutonic Knights in medieval Germany slaughter an entire village and bury their corpses in a mass grave. Then a massive church is built on the site to keep the demons at bay. Centuries later, Evan (Tomas Arana) is hired as a librarian in the same church, where he quickly gets cozy with restoration artist Lisa (Barbara Cupisti) and befriends plucky teenager Lotte (Asia Argento), the daughter of one of the priests.

Though warned to stay out of the building’s catacombs, Evan can’t help himself (otherwise, no movie). After reading an ancient parchment discovered by Lisa, he goes looking for the Stone with Seven Eyes, which he finds, of course. Removing the stone releases long-dormant demons which possess Evan and eventually trap a variety of other secondary characters in the church during the third act. It’s the only aspect of the plot where The Church resembles the Demons sequel it was once apparently conceived to be (but wisely abandoned).

Comic relief.
Why some become possessed while others don’t isn’t explained, nor is it really all that important. With lessons learned from good buddy (and co-producer) Dario Argento, director Michele Saovi emphasizes atmosphere and surrealism over logic and exposition. The film is visually impressive, especially sequences taking place within the labyrinthine church. There reaches a point in the narrative where the story itself - pretty-much bereft of a traditional main character - takes a backseat to aesthetics, including some creepy imagery and well-executed death scenes. And I have to admit…the Goblin music enhances the overall tension more effectively than Emerson’s few contributions do.

Though not as well-known or appreciated as some other Italian horror films of the 80s, The Church is definitely worth checking out. It reflects an obvious Argento influence, but I’d argue that it’s better than anything he was cranking out at the time. This 4K UHD release boasts an excellent picture and three audio options, English 5.1, English and Italian Stereo. There’s also a Blu-ray disc with the feature film and, more significantly, a ton of retrospective interviews with various cast and crew members.



INTERVIEWS - 13 individual, often extensive interviews: The Mystery of the Cathedrals (with director Michele Saovi, who’s probably the gives the most entertaining interview of the bunch); Alchemical Possession (with producer/co-writer Dario Argento); The Eleventh Commandment (with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti); Lotte (with actor Asia Argento); Here Comes the Bride (with actor Antonella Vitale, who played the bitchy bride); A Demon Named Evan (with actor Tomas Arana); Father Giovanni (with actor Lombardo Rapice); Monsters & Demons (with FX artist Sergio Stivaletti); Holy Ground (with make-up artist Franco Casagni); Building the Church (with set designer Antonello Geleng); The Right-Hand Man (with assistant director Claudio Lattanzi); Return to the Land of the Demons (with Dario Argento biographer Alan Jones).


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