The Church (1989)
the church | michele soavi | dario argento | franco ferrini | hugh quarshie | tomas arana | feodor chaliapin jr. | demon | demons | possession | possessed | italy | barbara cupisti | antonella vitale | giovanni lombardo radice | asia argento | roberto caruso
Film: The Church
Director: Michele Soavi
Writer: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini and Michele Soavi
Starring: Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana and Feodor Chaliapin Jr.
This was a film that I first heard about as it is considered to be the third part of the Demons films by some people. It was marketed that way for a stretch and Italian cinema did this quite a bit. Now the official synopsis for this film is an old Gothic cathedral, built over a mass grave, develops strange powers which trap a number of people inside with ghosts from a 12th century massacre seeking to resurrect an ancient demon from the bowls of the Earth.
Now this film starts back in the day. We have a group of the Teutonic Knights, or also known as the Knights Templar, as they come to a stone. It has the mark of the beast on it and they go into a cave. Inside we see a young woman as she is washing her feet. She is accused of being a witch and we see the reverend for the knights. He tells them that they need to kill everyone as they are cursed and that’s what happens. They slaughter the village and put them in a mass grave. As they are doing this, there is someone wearing a mask watching. It turns out to be a young Asia Argento. She is also killed. Everyone in the grave is sealed, which includes a knight that got too close, and a cross is placed over top of it. A church is then built on the site to keep the evil in.
It then shifts to present day. Evan (Tomas Arana) arrives at the church. He is to catalogue all the books in the library. He first meets a woman who is restoring the frescos, Lisa (Barbara Cupisti). He then meets Lotte (Argento) in the library. The bishop in charge (Feodor Chaliapin Jr.) scolds him for being late and he is quite ornery.
As they are restoring the church, Lisa finds something in the catacombs below. She gives it to Evan who has ambitions of finding something important down there so he doesn’t have to work any more. He ends up finding more as he unleashes the evil that is below the church. There is actually a mechanism that seals the church, along with all those that were inside at the time. Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) will do what he can to save all those that are trapped while stopping the evil that’s been unleashed.
Now this was a film that I was quite intrigued about. I’m fascinated by the Knights Templar and the things that they did. I’m not very religious, because I feel that it is used more for the gain of things and that is exactly what they did. They might have even actually been worshiping Satan. Question I have from this film, were the villagers they killed actually evil or did they create it for the things that they did to them. It is really something to ponder and I enjoyed that aspect of the film.
Something else I enjoy about this film is that there’s a lot of seeing things that aren’t really there. It is driving them mad with what they are seeing as it takes them over for its own gain. We even have the bishop in charge, who actually avoids possession, but he is a mean individual. He does want to do the right thing and will sacrifice anyone in his way to ensure the evil never gets out.
I do find the way they defeat the evil though to be problematic. I don’t really think what they do would work and it wouldn’t take that much for it be uncovered again. I do like that the church becomes sealed, so no one can get out though. That aspect really drives up the tension of the film that they are isolated. I also am a really big fan of the corruption of a holy place for this to all happen.
Now I do have some issues though with the story itself. It takes entirely too long to really get into anything. I think the build-up should have been trimmed down a bit and could have tightened up the story. If this film came in around 90 minutes, I think it would have benefited. I also found it weird that it presents Evan as our main character and then he vanishes from the film completely. I also feel like the film loses its way and we just kind of get a bunch of scenes that are thrown together with scares, blood and effects. I do somewhat come to expect this from Italian cinema though.
Acting for the film I thought was pretty solid. Quarshie is pretty good as the hero of the film. It is interesting as he is first presented as weak and not very good as a priest. We don’t really get to see much arch from him, but he does become stronger at least. Arana is interesting as he comes in and he is kind of arrogant. His drive is his downfall. Cupisti I thought was good, but much like Evan, her character kind of fades away when she is established as a star at first. I do have to give a shout out to Argento. She is young in this film, but she was solid in her performance. It is odd that she was dubbed with someone else’s voice though. The rest of the cast I thought was fine for what was needed.
Something that I thought was good was the effects of the film as well. It does seem that they went practical which I’m a big fan of. The blood looks good and I thought the gore that we got was as well. There are some interesting creatures that we see in the film. They did take me back at times, but when we see the truth of them, I’m on board. I especially liked the representation of Satan in the film. I thought the few times we see him, he is good. I did think the film was shot well.
The score of the film I enjoyed. It was done partially by Goblin, who I love. This isn’t one of their better scores though. I did think some of the selections might have been a bit out of place, but it does fit with the films they did earlier in the decade. I thought it was good enough for what was needed.
Now with that said, this film actually ticked a lot of my boxes to be something that I really liked. I do think there were a few missteps that hurt the film for me. I like the use of the Knights Templar and the corruption of the church. The film might have tried to do a little too much and it caused the film to lose its way. That could be why the pacing is off as well. I did think the acting was solid as were the effects. The score of the film isn’t great, but I do think that it fit for what they needed. I did find this film to be quite enjoyable though and would be one I’d be willing to revisit. Overall I’d say this one is above average and I’d recommend if you are into this genre or like films from Italy.
My Rating: 7 out of 10