Anchor Bay // 1988 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dezhda Mountz (Retired) // April 12th, 2002
Going to church was never like this...
The Church was another in a long list of Italian horror films, sealing the reputation of director Michele Soavi as a premier maker of such gore classics as The Devil's Daughter, Bloody Bird and the cult hit Cemetery Man, which was produced by fame splatter master Dario Argento. The film tried to combine poetry with blood and gore. Does it succeed?
We get a slice 'em-dice 'em massacre set in the medieval times, a slaughter of a village suspected to be full of witches. To the music of Herbie-Hancock-meets-Esther-the-church-organist, villagers are piled in a mass grave.
Years later, Evan (Tomas Arana) is the librarian for a creepy church in Italy. Upon his arrival, he meets a comely woman who is in charge of renovating the church. As they pick beneath the surface of the concrete floor, the medieval village comes alive: spirits, demons, and other remnants of the burial ground wreak havoc on The Church's visitors.
I think The Church is supposed to be so bad it's good. And it really is "so bad." The gore is great; the cheesy dubbed voices are lovely; the bad '80s outfits...divine. But there are far too many slow patches in this film. You promise me gore? Give it to me. Demons and monsters? Let 'em loose. There's a too much dead time between the horror, too many artsy-fartsy film techniques that cannot elevate the script no matter how hard they try -- it all just ends up boring the viewer.
After Evan figures out the code to a mysterious paper that the renovator, Lisa, picks up, The Church is headed towards demons and mayhem. What poor Evan doesn't realize is that the church is built upon an old burial ground, where an entire village, considered 'contagious" by the authorities, rests in...well, not peace, obviously. According to old legend, if a certain mysterious spot in an old cathedral is moved, the cathedral will fall apart.
So of course one of the renovators breaks out a drill. Great. Not a good move. The only entrance to the church shuts, closing in tourists, renovators, and sacred folk alike.
People start having visions -- of monsters, horses, their own disgusting demise (lots of ketchupy blood and guts abound). It looks like there may not be any survivors -- though Lotte, the sacristan's daughter (played by producer Dario's daughter, Asia Argento), seems to know more about the situation than anyone else as the demonic attack builds to a crescendo and leaves you breathless...breathless to hit the fast forward button.
So you have your requisite horror movie -- old burial ground haunts the living. What about the transfer -- does it make up for the ho-hum factor?
Not quite, at least in the visual department. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a few flaws. The darks buzz heavily and are dull and grayed without any dark black levels. Colors are blah and thin -- skin tones look a tad greenish and there is no sense of luminosity, even when doting on Italian actresses' porcelain skin (this all may be due to the film source's age...but we'll never know for sure). However, the rest of the transfer looks clean of any dirt of grain, and edge enhancement is kept to a bare minimum.
The sound fares much better. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound is adequate; the Dolby Digital Surround EX, which is what you'll automatically hear unless you choose differently, is great. Crisp and with depth, you hear gags and gore as well as the leak of basement water in the background. In fact, the sound is too good compared to the lousy visual transfer.
Extras include a blah biography on director Michele Soavi and a trailer. Nothing great here. We could have used a documentary or some other trailers of similar features -- or how about both?
The cheesiness factor got me through the movie sufficiently. If you've got a couple cold ones in the fridge and a good wisecracking friend at your side, this is a movie for you, suitable for some home MST3K-esque viewing.
The Church could use some more tweaking for a better transfer and more tongue-in-cheek knowingness. This über-serious gore film just moved too slowly -- but not enough for me to give up on it completely.
The Church must say 40 Hail Mary's and go get a better transfer. And how about some more satisfying extras?
Review content copyright © 2002 Dezhda Mountz; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Michele Soavi Biography