Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Church (la chiesa)

This is one of my favorite Argento movies that's not really an Argento Directed movie. For years, I assumed it was Dario at the helm here, but he just wrote the story. Michele Soavi actually Directed this one. Soavi was the Director of Cemetery Man and La setta. He has a fantastic kinetic camera style and seems to have a lot of fun with the camera. The story is rather deep and there are some hyper-strange scenes that make it a lot of fun to take in.

The idea is that the Teutonic Knights found a village that worshiped the devil - at least a few people in the poor village. So, of course, the whole village was killed and buried in a pit. And, what better way to ensure that that evil would STAY buried...than to build a church on top of it after dropping a massive cross on the remains? :) Years later, comedy ensues, of course.

Here we are in 1989. There are archivists and people restoring the church, priests who work in the church, visitors and little Miss Asia Argento - Dario's daughter - in one of the first roles for her dad. She's living in the church with the priests. Her Dad works in the church as the sacristan. These roles are always strange for me. The dad putting his daughter in roles where horrid things happen to her. It's always creepy to me.

The people restoring the art at the church and researching the library within it stumble on some information that may be of major historical importance. (When they are not trying to hump each other) This leads them down the road to sorting out the mystery of the church, but I'm not sure they will be happy with what they find.

There are all sorts of strange little scenes in this movie. A black priest who does archery for recreation when he's not getting reprimanded by the head priest. Asia and her abusive father and disinterested mother. The researchers and their whirlwind romance. And, several scenes where strange sounds and visuals come into play. It's a creepy set up. The scenes slowly work around to a group being shut into the church and unable to get out. And that's when everything gets ramped up to true, demon levels of brilliance.

The movie works for me on several levels. Some of it is due to the level of acting - real acting - present in this film. It's not the stereotypical, 80s Euro goofs here. We have people like Hugh Quarshie (Phantom Menace) and Tomas Arana (Gladiator) here and they do a great job. Of course, the second level of characters who come in to get trapped in the church are not as...seasoned. We start to get some of the B and C list folks in, but at that point it's fine - we just need them around to get possessed and dispatched in interesting ways. The performances are fun in and of themselves. Kids spouting facts and knowledge about the church, bitchy photo crews demanding to be released from the church when the lock-down happens and demonic possessions springing up due to scratches and cuts. 

The story is a solid base for mayhem as well. A village with Satanic ties being wiped out by Christian Knights, only to be set free by mistake? And, a priest who doesn't want to stop the demon plague because he wants the city (and world) to pay for their sins. Great stuff. The build up does take a little while, but it's worth it. The strangeness of the whole of it makes me happy.

CRAZY stuff. Demonic possession, religious visuals, grand edits and bonkers items like people leaping through windows to escape. Stuff that makes you say, "What the HELL just happened?!" out loud. I mean, people are horribly killed one minute, then the scene cuts to something else...and it's like nothing happened. This helps to create a feeling of madness that helps sell the whole story.

There are also some uncomfortable scenes with the under-aged Asia Argento as she's peeked at and hunted by a possessed adult, then dragged off by her possessed father to be disciplined when she comes to him for help.

If you like strange Italian cinema, this film is for you!

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