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In the middle of a modern city, an ancient evil is about to awaken! An elaborate cathedral that was once the site of a medieval massacre by crusading knights becomes a deadly trap for a group of visitors and staff when a sealed crypt is accidentally reopened. The laws of reality soon collapse as a nightmare takes hold and claims the lives of those within one by one, threatening to unleash a supernatural pestilence upon the world! Legendary horror maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera, Deep Red) presents this stylish shocker from director Michele Soavi (The Sect, Dellamorte Dellamore, Stagefright), featuring an avalanche of nightmarish visual effects and a powerful score by Goblin and Keith Emerson. Don't miss this baroque descent into the occult starring Tomas Arana (Gladiator, The Bodyguard, The Sect), Barbara Cupisti (Stagefright, New York Ripper), and Asia Argento (xXx, Land of the Dead), now in eye-popping, glorious HD!
Soavi creates a total, apocalyptic sense of dread that never leaves even the most domestic moments of the film. --Tim Brayton, AlternateEnding.com
There is no denying the dreaminess of Soavi's stream-of-consciousness horror show. --Ed Gonzalez, Slant
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"The Church" had been released on region B blu-ray back in 2016 by Shameless Films which featured a new 2K scan of the original negative. Scorpion Releasing used this transfer as the basis for their North American blu-ray release while also doing additional color correction. Presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the film looks breathtakingly spectacular. The bit rate stays high in the mid 30's and detail is impeccable. It is truly like seeing the film again for the first time. No digital scrubbing was done so it retains a natural grain structure. It is also featured its full 1 hour 42 minute uncensored director's cut. Audio is presented in 2 channel master audio.
Extras include a 19 minute interiew with Michele Soavi, a little less than 9 minute interview with Asia Argento and some trailers.
"The Church" is a visually wonderful slice of classic Italian horror that makes its stateside blu-ray release in style thanks to Scorpion Releasing. Highly recommend!
During the Medieval Ages, a military religious order called the Teutonic Knights invade a village and kill everyone in it, all because one young girl was accused of being a witch (she has a wound on the sole of her foot shaped like an upside-down cross). All the villagers are buried in a mass grave; a huge stone cross is put on top of the mass grave to ensure their demon souls will never rise in the land of the living. To make especially sure this will never happen, a church is to be built on top of the grave.
Cut to the present day, where Evan (Tomas Arana; BODY PUZZLE - 1992) is starting his first day as a librarian at a church (guess which one). His job is to catalog all the ancient manuscripts and books in the church's library. He meets Lisa (Barbara Cupisti; THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982), who is restoring the church's many grotesque frescoes. Evan also meets teenager Lotte (Asia Argento; MOTHER OF TEARS - 2007), who looks exactly like a young girl that was killed by one of the Knights in the film's opening minutes. But what does that mean? While doing some restoration in the church basement, Lisa discovers an ancient parchment that was hidden in a hole in the wall. She brings the parchment to Evan, who tells her that this is a "once in a lifetime" find and to tell no one that it exists. Evan is not able to decipher the parchment, but he recognizes a symbol on it that represents the Teutonic Knights (Evan tells Lisa that Hitler created the SS based on the Knights' practices). Lisa and Evan start a romantic relationship, which they must keep secret from the Bishop (Feodor Chaliapin; INFERNO - 1980) and the Reverend (Giovanni Lombardo Radice; CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1980), otherwise they will be fired from their jobs. Evan is determined to translate the parchment (He also wonders why this church doesn't have a king or bishop buried within its walls, like all the other big Catholic churches. The only people buried there are the church's builders.), when he discovers that the parchment was written in a long-forgotten language that has been mirrored, so he uses a mirror to translate it. It tells him that he must find the "stone with the seven eyes". But why?
Evan begins searching through the church's library for a mention of the stone and it is at this time when nearly everyone in the church, including Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie; NIGHTBREED - 1990), begin seeing and hearing things (like the sound of horses running down the pews) that can't possibly be there. Evan finds the stone on the giant crucifix that guards the mass grave and he removes it. Big Mistake. A hole opens up in the shape of a giant cross, a hole which may travel down to the abyss of Hell. Adam pulls a shroud out of the hole which contains the remains of a Knight who fell in the mass grave and it suddenly comes to life, its decomposing hand squeezing Evan's neck, when it suddenly stops. It is obvious Evan is now possessed by some demon entity (he rips open his chest and pulls out his own heart, yet he doesn't die!). He then kills Lotte's father, Hermann, the Sacristan (Roberto Corbiletto; a Sacristan is a person in charge of the church's sacred vessels, vestments, etc.), who has come to the church basement looking for Lotte (earlier in the film, he calls Lotte a slut and accuses her of drinking). It is at this time that the film loses its linear narrative, as it turns into sequences of WTF?!? horror.
Lisa sees a goatman monster (an image usually associated with the Devil) in her bedroom window (which then shatters) and calls the police. When they arrive, all they see is a scared woman. Lotte witnesses a possessed Evan trying to rape Lisa and she acts like nothing is wrong (as a matter of fact, she paints her nails in front of Evan!). Evan goes all SHINING-like by typing the number "6" over and over on his typewriter and then tries to kill Lotte, but she escapes and runs into her father, who is now possessed. He washes her mouth out with soap (!) for daring to speak ill of Evan. After trying to kill Father Gus in a confessional, Hermann commits suicide in the church basement by impaling himself with a jackhammer (!), his flowing blood triggering an ancient booby-trap that puts the entire church in lockdown, trapping everyone inside. This includes a bridal model (Antonella Vitale) on a professional photo shoot; a biker named Freddie (Roberto Caruso) and his girlfriend Mira (Olivia Cupisti); a school full of young children on a tour of the church; and an old couple, Heinrich (John Karlsen) and his wife (Katherine Bell Marjorie).
It's not long before some of the trapped inhabitants become demons (This film was originally going to be titled DEMONS 3, a second sequel to Lamberto Bava's DEMONS , but the director did not want this film to be associated with that film because his film was not "pizza schlock"!). The bridal model is bloodily impaled by the spikes of an iron gate wielded by a reanimated Hermann. Freddie sees a naked Mira in the grip of a religious statue of a winged angel come to life (an image taken from a famous Boris Vallejo painting, but this image has been used in many religious horror films, including CURSE IV: THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE [a.k.a. CATACOMBS - 1988], also featuring Feodor Chaliapin). The Bishop is aware of what is going on, telling Father Gus that this wasn't the first time this has happened, but when Father Gus is not satisfied with his explanation, especially when the Bishop says, "I am the church!", they get into a scuffle, which results in the Bishop falling to his death, impaled on a sharp grave marker. Mira falls through a hole in the church floor, hanging on to Freddie's grip, but she has her face and brains splattered against the window of a traveling subway car! Much more weird stuff happens, including Lisa tearing the skin off her face when she sees herself as an old hag in a mirror. There is also an appearance of a gooey lizard/demon/gargoyle creature., but you'll be saying the same thing as Father Gus, when he yells out, "I don't understand!", but I guarantee you'll never be bored.
Directed by Michele Soavi of STAGEFRIGHT (1987) and CEMETERY MAN (1994; one of the few Italian horror films to obtain a U.S. theatrical release in the '90s) fame, with a script by Soavi, Dario Argento (FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET - 1971; DRACULA 3D - 2012), Franco Ferrini ([TERROR AT THE] OPERA - 1987) & five other uncredited writers, this film may not make much sense but, man, is it beautiful to look at! It is very bloody in spots (including a beheading and various impalements) and eerily atmospheric, but I love it because it is a feast for the eyes.
Originally released uncut and Unrated on fullscreen VHS by Southgate Entertainment in 1991, with a widescreen, uncut DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2002 and again by Blue Underground in 2007. But the Blu-Ray, from Scorpion Releasing (released early in 2018), is the preferred way of viewing this film. The print is flawless and the colors pop, making it look better than it ever has before. It's also a hoot to see Asia Argento at such a young age (she was 15 when this film was made, but she looks much younger). The extras on the Blu-Ray include new 2017 interviews with Michele Soavi and Asia Argento, both informative. We discover that Soavi painted the church's grotesque frescoes and he tried to copy the style of Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch (he succeeded) and that it was filmed at a real church in Budapest (Soavi tried to film it at a church in Nuremberg, Germany, but the town didn't want a horror film to be made there. There are still some scenes in the film that were shot there). Soavi also explains that the late Keith Emerson did the music soundtrack, but, even though his music was beautiful, it didn't fit within in the confines or the "feel" of the film, so the soundtrack was composed and recorded by The Goblins, who also did the music for Dario Argento's DEEP RED (1975), SUSPIRIA (1977) and many other Italian genre films. Asia Argento remembers that the church had to be deconsecrated every morning so they could film the "most heinous things". She also says that when she was a kid, she was not easily shocked. With a father like Dario, I can understand why. She also remembers that Antonella Vitale, the Bridal Model, was her father's girlfriend at the time. Asia looks at her horror film career with reverence and humor, which is refreshing. If you want to see one of the last truly great Italian horror films, search out this Blu-Ray, which can be found on Amazon. Also starring Alina De Simone, Claire Hardwick, Lars Jorgenson, John Richardson and a blink and you'll miss it cameo by Michele Soavi as a cop. Not Rated.
I am not surprised Dario Argento is attached to this movie. He is truly a master of horror. Excited to see other Hugh Quarshie movies as well.
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