DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE CHURCH (LA CHIESA) (director/writer: Michele Soavi; screenwriters: story and script by Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini/Nick Alexander-English dialogue; cinematographer: Renato Tafuri; editor: Franco Fratacelli; music: Keith Emerson & The Goblins; cast: Tomas Arana (Evan),  Barbara Cupisti (Lisa), Asia Argento  (Lotte), Feodor Chaliapin Jr. (Bishop), Hugh Quarshie (Father Gus), Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Reverend), Roberto Corbiletto (Herman, the Sacristan), Alina De Simone (Lotte's Mother), Claire Hardwick (Joanna), Lars Jorgenson (Bruno), John Karlsen (Heinrich), Katherine Bell Marjorie (Heinrich's Wife), Antonella Vitale (Bride Model), Katherine Bell Marjorie (Heinrich’s Wife), Patrizia Punzo (Miss Bruckner), Gianfranci Degrassi (accuser), John Richardson (Architect); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Dario Argento/Mario & Vittorio Cecchi Gori; Hemdale Home Video; 1989-Italy-English version)

"This so-so thriller should appeal mostly to followers of Dario Argento, the Italian filmmaker noted for such gruesome scare-fest hokum."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A stylish but absurd supernatural gothic horror pic co-written and directed by producer Dario Argento's protege Michele Soavi ("The Sect"/"Cemetery Man"). I saw the English version. It was based on a story by Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini. The muddled narrative looks good and tells its dubious story with conviction, but drags when it becomes too talky trying to explain its ridiculous narrative. This so-so thriller should appeal mostly to followers of Dario Argento, the Italian filmmaker noted for such gruesome scare-fest hokum.

It opens in the 12th century, during the crusades. A military religious order of Germanic
Knights Templar is dispatched to a village a priest (Gianfranci Degrassi) accuses of being Satanists. They are all massacred and buried in a pit in a mass grave. They keep the sinners underground, as an alchemist architect (John Richardson) is forced to build a gothic cathedral over the site to keep the evil spirits from the world. His reward for building a church that will keep out the evil spirits is that he's slain and is the only one allowed to be buried in the church.

In modern times, a new librarian, Evan (
Tomas Arana ), comes to the cathedral as a cataloger of its books and flirts with fresco restorer Lisa (Barbara Cupisti). When she locates a strange manuscript buried in the wall, Evan follows the clues in the manuscript down into the catacombs and opens a panel. He thereby stumbles upon the church's dark secret and becomes possessed. Meanwhile the panel he touched locks the one church door and unleashes the demons from below. This traps inside the church with no way out all the clergy and a group of diverse tourists--from a vain photo-shoot model (Antonella Vitale) in a bridal gown, an elementary school visit with a prim teacher (Patrizia Punzo), an eccentric elderly couple (John Karlsen & Katherine Bell Marjorie) and a pair of feuding biker lovers (Lars Jorgenson & Claire Hardwick).

When the Bishop (
Feodor Chaliapin Jr.), who realizes what's happening, commits suicide, it's up to the young black priest, Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie), to act heroic and try to save as many lives as he can before the newly possessed start killing all those in the church. The caretaker's young daughter Lotte (Asia Argento, Dario's daughter) is anguished her parents (Roberto Corbiletto & Alina De Simone) have been demonized. But she survives the ordeal, and along with Father Gus are the most sympathetic characters.

The film had artistic pretensions to be less cheesy than Argento's previous Demons 1 & 2, but even if the concept might be innovative the film wasn't.

REVIEWED ON 6/11/2016       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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