The Church

The Church (1988)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Thomas Arana, Feodor Chaliapin, Asia Argento
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Director Biography

There is a dangerous secret hidden somewhere inside an aging gothic cathedral. And, there is a good movie hidden somewhere inside ’The Church’. And while the mystery in the cathedral is eventually solved, that good movie never shows up, unfortunately. ’The Church’ was co-written and produced by Dario Argento and directed by Michele Soavi, who had shown such promise on his first film, ’Stagefright’, but can’t seem to deliver here. The film opens during The Crusades, as we witness a group of knights slaughtering a village of suspected Satanists. It is decided that a cathedral should be built on the site, in order to keep the evil subdued. Flash forward to the present, where an accident during the renovation of the church unleashes the angry spirits of the dead. Several innocent people find themselves trapped in the church, as one by one they are possessed by the ancient evil.

’The Church’ was originally planned as ’Demons 3’, but changed direction when Soavi was brought on board. While Soavi does a fine job of creating a dream-like atmosphere in the film, he sacrifices any sense of story or narrative logic to do so. ’Demons’ and ’Demons 2’ certainly aren’t great movies, but they are entertaining, and there’s always something happening. It takes over an hour for the ’action’ to start in ’The Church’ and even then, nothing really happens. We never really get to know the characters, nor is there any ’team up and help out’ scenes, which made ’Demons’ so much fun. The plot line involving the cathedral’s architect is ingenious, but it gets pushed aside in favor of pseudo-disturbing images, which serve no real purpose. Granted, ’The Church’ isn’t all bad, as it does offer some shocks and Soavi’s photography is imaginative, but it’s a disappointing film nonetheless. Instead of remaking ’Open Your Eyes’ and ’The Ring’, Hollywood should take this film and make something great from it.

As usual, Anchor Bay has done a fine job with the transfer. The film has been remastered from the original vault materials and has been enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The image is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is very sharp and clear. A subtle amount of grain is visible in some shots and the image appears a bit flat at times, but otherwise the picture is good. The colors are fine, except during the prologue, where things are slightly washed-out. There is no distortion to the image, and there are no signs of artifacting. The newly created Dolby Digital EX audio track is very good, although it lacks the power of the audio heard on ’Suspiria’ or ’Opera’. The dialogue is clear and audible and the surround sound effects are very impressive, although there are segments in the film where there isn’t much action from the rear speakers. This DVD includes the original theatrical trailer for ’The Church’, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and a biography of director Michele Soavi.