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John’s Horror Corner: The Church (1989), yet another haphazard Italian horror featuring creepy atmosphere, a diversity of effects, a shaky story and horny demons.

December 13, 2015

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MY CALL: I wouldn’t call this film a conquest for the genre, but instead just a stop on the tour of ludicrous 80s horror films to be enjoyed.  Impotent acting and incontinent story synthesis are somewhat redeemed by creepy atmosphere and a diversity of moderate effects.  MOVIES LIKE The Church:  Looking for more bonkers 80s horror that fails to keep a straight face?  Try The Gate (1987), Society (1989), or any of the Italian horror mentioned in this review.

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Let’s get something straight, people. This movie is weird.
Like…demon copping a feel weird!

The 80s blessed horror fans with numerous bonkers Italian movies with randomly fragmented stories—especially when considering Fulci’s (Conquest, Aenigma, Manhattan Baby) contributions.  These films are seldom “good” but often enjoyed at the very least, if not celebrated.  Today’s surreal film is such a movie…

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Watch for a young Asia Argento.

We begin with a group of knights following some weird dude into a cave to meet an accused witch with a cross-shaped stigmata on her foot.  Upon visual (and laughably momentary) confirmation of her damnation, they naturally kill her and everyone in her obviously Satanic village.  Seems practical that a single purported witch results in citywide extermination, right?  Among the montaged savagery we find scores of bloody corpses, some of them naked, piled in a mass grave.  The site is blessed, they drop a giant cross on the pile of bodies and they build a church atop the macabre mass to “trap the demon” forever.  This sets the tone for a brutal Italian gorefest—and there are several somewhat gory efforts—but that’s not exactly what we’re in for…this is more eerie than gory.

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Skip to present day and we find our gigantic gothic cathedral led by an inordinately venerable (and weird) priest.  Not sure if this is normal, but the church recently hired a new librarian, a young woman (Barbara Cupisti; Opera, Cemetery Man) to restore its art, and contractors jackhammering away in the catacombs below.  Pretty active for a European church, isn’t it?  Anyway, there seem to be some hidden cavities and caverns below the church and an old parchment scroll discovered in its walls begins to unravel mystery and subsequent mayhem.

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Our intrigued librarian Evan (Tomas Arana; Gladiator, Frankenfish) believes that artefacts and secrets are hidden away buried beneath cathedrals, and this ignites his sense of adventure and discovery.  Do they grant supernatural power or other-worldly knowledge?  Who knows…let’s find out!  He solves the encrypted scroll, searches for “a stone with seven eyes” found atop the mass grave’s cross and resembling a mixture of Lovecraftian tentacles and the demon Baphomet.  It seals an abyss below and, as in The Gate (1987), some accidently drawn blood opens this infernal doorway.

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Perhaps now partially possessed, Evan starts acting super weird…in fact, the whole movie starts getting super weird.  He pulls out his own beating heart for no reason at all, there is a demon goat home invasion, Evan turns into a sex-hungry creeper and he aims some of his unwanted affections toward a very young Asia Argento (Mother of Tears, Demons 2), Asia’s dad kills someone with a spiked fence and then suicidally jackhammers himself through the stomach to “finish” opening the infernal gate, an elaborate Indiana Jones mechanism is triggered to lock down the church and trap its occupants, more people get briefly possessed, a monstrous amphibian leaps out of the holy water and attacks someone…

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…trapped people get feverish and delusional, an old lady uses her husband’s severed head to ring the church bells, a demon cops a feel of a girls bare butt, the old priest goes mad and gets impaled, there’s a mirror who’s reflection shouldn’t be trusted, and a sex scene with a goat demon and a woman on an altar.  Some of these things seem to be hallucinations whereas others are really happening but, as the movie viewer, I’m questioning my own sanity while watching this hilariously eerie nonsense transpire.  No clue why any of it is happening…but it’s happening!  So many bonkers things happen in this movie and it culminates in a giant mass of conjoined bodies emerging from the depths.  It reminded me of Society (1989) for just a moment, but not nearly as perverted.

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The acting is completely stale and it feels like every scene was shot in a single, unrehearsed take.  And while the pace of this film could certainly be quicker, I enjoyed the creepy atmosphere.  The first act played out much more like an eerie mystery than a horror story and this set a solidly uneasy tone—one of the best aspects of this movie, by the way.  I may have wanted a more blatant gorefest, but the healthy diversity of moderate effects complemented the tone well.

Although not directed by Dario Argento (Phenomena), this film (originally released as La Chiesa) certainly wears his mark.  Rather Italian director Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man) is responsible for this zany Italian horror film.  I wouldn’t call this film a conquest for the genre, but instead just a stop on the tour of ludicrous 80s horror films to be enjoyed.  Aside from the impotent acting and incontinent story synthesis, a lot was left to be desired in terms of special effects, make-up and gore…none of which offered what I’d expect for a lower budget 80s flick.  Although the effort was readily apparent especially when the woman’s face is smashed (like a birthday cake; no really, it looked like a birthday cake!) onto a subway car and the mirror’s reflection scenes.  The macabre mass of bodies at the end was satisfactorily messy, yet should have been more harrowing.  But it just shows up briefly, then is dispatched; it doesn’t “do” anything but appear and shake a few limbs.  Similar can be said for the entertaining goat demon, which doesn’t really do anything other than look pretty neat…and have sex with someone.  LOL.

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The movie ends typically, implying that the cycle of evil will continue but presenting it in a way that will draw no grins of satisfaction.  This was surely entertaining to this campy horror fan, but also surely not so great.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2017 9:00 pm

    Not great? Are you an idiot or complete idiot?

  2. Tom permalink
    August 4, 2017 1:26 pm

    I can’t figure out the names of the actresses who played ” the school teacher ” or the girl that get’s felt up by the deamon.

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner: Shock (1977), a terrible Italian “haunted house” sequel. | Movies, Films & Flix

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