Back in Medieval Germany (at least, I think it’s Germany) a large group of knights rides into a town where they believe a cult of witches/demon worshipers lives. Naturally, they slaughter every living thing they can find, because Medieval logic states that, yeah, those chickens were probably fine, but why take any chances? But even in death the massacred demons are considered too strong, so the decision is made to erect a church over the massive pile of bodies they’ve just buried, in hopes of containing the horrible evil within.
“You don’t suppose we slaughtered any innocent people back there, do yo–”
“Shut up, Hans.”
Time skip ahead to present day (circa 1980s) and the church that was built over the decaying den of sin is getting a new librarian. His name is Evan. Evan ends up being late on his very first day of work because he spends too much time gawking at a grotesque fresco and getting art supplies dropped on his head by the cute art restorer that’s working on the church.
Said art restorer comes to visit him a few days later when she uncovers a hidden text buried in a wall. Evan eventually deciphers the coded script, which promises eternal life to whomever unlocks something beneath a stone carved with seven eyes. Evan immediately decides, “Screw books, this is MUCH better!” (One wonders why he became a librarian) and he goes off in search of the mysterious stone. He finds it, of course, and inadvertently releases the contained evil hidden below.
You know, knights, if you’re trying to, I don’t know, permanently hide a
bunch of evil demons, maybe don’t write about how to let them out, hm?
Evan accidentally cuts himself in the process of releasing the demons, and winds up possessed, because I guess possession works the same way as zombie infection does. So basically, the world is now screwed because a librarian got bored.
But wait! Turns out the church builders crafted some sort of self destruct mechanism that would activate if ever the evil in the church was somehow released. Shockingly, after 1000+ years of inactivity, the damn contraption still works and the church goes into lockdown mode, completely sealing itself off from the outside world.
Unfortunately, this also traps everyone who was in the church inside, including worshipers, a biker couple, a couple of old tourists, a modeling crew and a bunch of kids on a field trip. As the evil slowly spreads throughout the church, decimating the people trapped within and the church itself, it’s up to Father Gus, the sole unaffected priest, to make a decision: find and activate the final phase of the church’s self destruction and pull the kill switch, or let the evil take it’s course and possibly wipe out all of humanity.
It’s at the point in the film, where the evil is unleashed, that the movie goes off the deep end as only Italian horror films can. With only a couple of exceptions, everyone seemingly goes crazy and the film devolves into creative stabbings, hallucinations, decapitations, probable molestation and romantic satanic candlelight rituals in the buff.
And damn it all, if it ain’t pretty while doing so.
Well, it’s pretty as far as horror standards go.
It’s nice to see the condemned souls spent their millennia of confinement coming up with creative orgy positions.
It really should come as no surprise that Dario Argento is tied to this movie. It was originally supposed to be a sequel to the Demons series, but then Michele Soavi got hold of it and altered the script, turning it more into a distant cousin with a surrealist bent. Which is probably partially why parts of the movie make no sense, but then again that’s often part of the Italian horror experience. The film makes up for it by knocking people off in a variety of creative ways, yet the gore still winds up being relatively mild considering the massive death toll.
Overall, my biggest complaint with The Church involved the editing. It was notably choppy in a couple of areas. Whether it was an effect of the editing process itself or due to the edits to the script, I’m not certain. Other than that, I found the film fairly enjoyable. It’s got some logic issues and a very slow build-up, but once it hits its stride it graces you with a surrealist pay-off filled with some very impressive gothic visuals and practical special effects. Definitely a recommendation to the fans of kooky horror and Italian horror films.
The Church is currently available on Amazon Prime.
It has also received a Bluray and DVD release.