The Church

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The Church
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The Church
Horror
ADC Films

The Church
Horror
ADC Films
March 10th, 1989
Release length: 1:33:00
Back in the day of the crusades, there was a cave outside of town that harbored some villagers that clearly didn’t want to be found. These villagers lead to the fall of a city, and the establishment of the first gothic cathedral in the country, one that perplexes the priests that reside inside it to this day. However, the reasons behind the church come clear during a restoration process, and a gateway that bridges our world and a demonic world will open and take all inside the church with it.

This Gothic masterpiece from Dario Argento is an enjoyable, well done cult classic, and a Horror feast that relies heavily on the story and acting moreso than visual effects outside of the architecture of the church itself. The story focuses on the events of the past to set the tone for the present day mystery. The film opens with a group of templars being led to a cave, where three individuals appear to be in hiding. However, for some reason, the mark of the beast (three sixes connected at the top into a circular fashion) adorn a rock as a marker outside of the cave. Sadly, there is not much shown other than that, but it seems rather remarkable from the few glances, prior to the bedlam starting. Inside, two people hide, with a woman appearing to bathe her feet and clean herself up slightly in a puddle of water. When they realize someone is coming, she wraps a small piece of cloth around her foot, and then plays a very sexy innocent game with one of the knights, removing his helmet to show a darkened, dirty skin, and an outline of the cross seared onto his face. Once that piece of cloth becomes unwrapped, they find she is suffering the Stigmata, and kill the woman, the occupants of the cave, as well as the neighboring town, fearing that this satanic woman, or witch, as it’s never really explained, carries an infectious disease such as the Black Plague, believed to be a sign of the Devil himself. From there, the whole town is slaughtered and buried in a mass grave with orders of a church be constructed over it.

At this point, the plot of the film is set up, and the story seems to drag, but while there’s nothing too involving with the script itself, it’s the mystery of the church, and the want for total anarchy and satanic beastial slaughter to occur. The church is breaking down, and the head priest commisions a woman to restore it, as well as hire a new librarian. These two set up the small love story, but there is a slightly twisted side plot going on with the resident younger girl, Lotte, who seems to be attracted to the librarian. Her parents reside in this church, and she appears to be one of those troublemaking youths who always tries to go out at night, and apparently does find ways to do so. Eventually, the restoration stops upon finding a huge cave beneath the church, and a discovery of a parchment that sends the librarian into a lust for power, causing him to explore the basement of the church, and unwittingly learn how to open the “gateway” in the basement through the giant cross with a Medusa-like mask placed upon it.

Once all this filler to push the story along is through, The Church becomes more of a survival tale then anything. All the visitors to the church become locked inside, and as they try to find a way out, they either become possessed, or are murdered. Sadly, there’s nothing too intense about any of this, and the only real interesting scenes of the film are those that make the situation even more dier for those trapped inside, showing just how isolated they truly are. The cross is constantly brought up through the film, and more details to the history of the church are given, including how the lock/seal is created, and why there are statues of three monks off to the side in the church gazing down at a completely seperate cross. The death scenes, sadly, are not really that interesting to watch, and often just seem random and sometimes uninspired. There are also moments that you don’t know if everyone is aware of what is going on, or if it is told directly through the eyes of the possessed, such as a scene where the children lure a woman to the front doors with her glasses. At times, these also seem somewhat cheap, as there is a death scene where some people find their way out, and fall into the darkness that is below the church, only to find they are in the subway and die at the hands of a speeding train, which actually brings in a horrible logic loophole in the film as to the church being above a darkness that is a gateway to a demonic realm.

From a technical standpoint, there’s nothing really wrong with the film, and barely any real continuity flaws that are obvious. Once in a while you’ll notice something out of place, but not enough that it would kill the feeling of the film or just be downright laughable. The only thing about the movie that can cause problems is the voice dubbing. While they all sound authetic, there are times where you can tell that there was dubbing involved due to it not quite matching with the movements of the mouths such as noting being on time with one another, or just delayed for a second or two. Aside that, the visuals are great, and carries the signature Dario Argento style that fans of classic foreign Horror films have come to know and love.

All in all, the film knits itself nicely from start to finish. The demonic faces are alright, the death scenes could have been much better at times, and there’s not much going on storywise. The main draw of the film becomes the tension of who will die next, as well as how much the original story line will affect the church and the later modern plot. While the progress of the film is handled well, there’s just a bit too much filler involved, and there’s nothing that really messes with your mind outside of some scenes that, no matter how many times you watch them, are still confusing as to what really went on and how it impacted the story, as if the writers wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t get back out, or due to editing on the North American R-Rated version.

But, for a Dario Argento film, the signatures are there. The gothic story line and overtones, such as it’s general appearance and feel, are all very twisted, which includes a Satanic vibe to what could be considered more of a modern-day fairy tale. The acting is well done and the characters play on the viewers emotions in the proper manner to make you want them to specifically live or die, often living up to the expectations. While it’s not a fantastic film, is definitely a cult classic, and for many good reasons outside of just one man’s namesake. If you happen to find this film on a rainy night, don’t be too quick to pass it up, as it does offer an entertaining experience, and an ending that should make most viewers happy despite feeling cheated.

Overall Score: 6.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.