The Film (5/5)
I first saw Michele Soavi's The Church when I was around 15-16 and first getting into Italian horror. At that point in time it was actually the easiest of Soavi's 4 horror pictures to get a hold until I found a rental copy of his Cemetery Man a few towns over from me. The film at the time captured my imagination featuring the epic set pieces of producer Dario Argento's films, but it also had a certain sense of creativity I could immediately feel was different from Argento’s and was definitely something special. After picking up Cemetery Man and later Stage Fright (I will admit I still have not seen the Sect) it would become apparent that the signature ingredient in the Church’s overall success was director Soavi whose developing abilities would lead Italian horror though it’s final great moment.
Initially conceived by producer Argento as the third film in the popular Demons series of movies, with Lamberto Bava again targeted as director. It was soon switched over to a unique property that happened to have thematic connections to the Demons franchise in the fact that a supernatural event occurred in a single location with a group of people trapped inside of it. In the Demons film those were a movie theater and apartment complex, and here we have the medieval church of the title.
The film opens with a medieval prologue with a group of Teutonic knights slaughtering a group of villagers they deem "Satanic". After their slaughter is complete they build a church on the burial ground to keep the evil contained, because that always works so well. The film then picks up in modern times (the early 1990's), and a new librarian is starting at the church with a job to catalog the books. In the process he discovers a rare parchment. Also, construction and restoration is going on at the church. This crypt is opened by the librarian which allows a demonic presence into the church and world. It is up Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) to stop the evil before it can invade the world.
The Church is absolutely fantastic. It has been a number of years since I had last seen it, so I had wondered how it would hold up. I should have known better, as Soavi is a true cinematic master. He may have stepped away from the cinema screen, but has recently made a name for himself as a TV director in Italy, and has done quite well in that regard. He did make one Crime film in the mid-2000's roughly translated as the Goodbye Kiss, and even though the genre is different the quality of the film proves that he is still a truly wonderful director.
Back to the Church, however, which is an absolutely thrilling gothic horror experience. The film opens strongly with a seen of historic horror that is absolutely fantastic. It then lulls a bit to set up characters and situations. The performances from that cast are well suited to the material. We also get a early performance from a young Asia Argento in the film as the daughter of one of the employees of the church. The soundtrack is done by Keith Emerson, who scored Argento's Inferno, and brings similar quality work here.
Shameless truly brings their A game to their first Blu-ray release in many years. The Church is presented in a 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that looks absolutely spectacular. Colors pop here, blacks are deep, and detail is excellent.
English and Italian HD audio tracks are presented here. Both tracks are quite excellent with dialogue and score coming through clearly. Emerson's score truly pounds.
There isn't much, but a new 25 minute interview with Soavi is included and it's fantastic. There is also a Shameless trailer reel.
The Church is an absolute delight, and this Blu-ray from Shameless looks and sound brilliant. There are limited extras, but the Soavi interview is excellent. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.