The Church (1989)
The Church is uniquely Italian; it’s got that singular style of crazy that sets Italian horror films apart from other countries’ work. It’s not so much the subject matter (although Italian filmmakers have done religious horror way more than others) as much as it is the execution – you understand what’s going on, but it’s some really weird stuff.
Back in the 13th century (or so the description says), a group of Teutonic Knights gets led to a village where a girl lives who supposedly communicates with demons. They kill her, and in a flagrant violation of the seventh commandment, proceed to slaughter the whole village as well, right down to the animals, which just seems like overkill. I mean, what’s a demonic duck going to do? Anyway, to sanctify the mass grave and to keep buried the evil within, they build a church over the spot.
Cut to modern times (or today minus about 20 years), where a construction crew working in the catacombs underneath the church discover what appears to be a large cave below. Examining their discovery, Lisa, who’s restoring the church’s frescoes, finds a parchment with strange writing on it. She shares it with Evan, the new church librarian, and they agree to keep it secret. Evan is convinced that there’s something valuable buried underneath the church, maybe even something that will make him like a god, which is exactly the sort of logical conclusion sane people don’t make. Long story short, Evan plays Indiana Jones, but gets possessed by a demon instead of finding treasure. In short order, everyone in the church gets possessed, save Father Gus and Lotte, the sacristan’s daughter. It’s up to Father Gus to find a way to keep the evil sealed up within the church, lest it get out and consume the world.
One thing I found really distracting when watching The Church is that it seems to be heavily dubbed. It’s done better than most movies – the actors’ lips match the dialogue – but it nonetheless gets annoying fast. It’s biggest problem, though, is nearly impossible to overcome: it’s just not scary, not even a little bit. Maybe it’s just me; religious horror doesn’t usually do it for me, possibly because I’m not religious. But I think that there’s very little in here that most people would find scary. The Church takes its sweet time getting down to business, so the ending feels more than a little rushed. Instead, it wastes time with details that turn out to not matter, like Father Gus’ archery practice. Matters aren’t helped that we’re never given any information about who these people are or why we should care for them.
On the bright side, The Church does boast some nice production values: the titular building is quite lovely, even when ominously lit. And the score is by Goblin, with 2 songs composed by Phillip Glass. And at least it has the guts to go with a downer ending, though: the church is ultimately destroyed, killing everyone inside, including a class of schoolchildren. Of course, evil never dies, it just gets sealed up in a can again, so it’s only a matter of time before it gets out once more. Hopefully, the next time that happens, we get something much more fun, like a bow-and-arrow-wielding priest getting his Legolas on against some possessed demon-children. That movie, I would watch.
This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club.
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