1988, Italy, Directed by Michele Soavi
Colour, Running Time: 102 minutes
Review Source: DVD, R1, Anchor Bay; Video: Anamorphic 1.85:1, Audio: DD EX
La Chiesa begins several hundred years ago when an army of Teutonic Knights slaughter an entire village of suspected Satanically-possessed people, burying them in a mass grave upon which a church is later built. Skipping forward to the present day, a new librarian unwittingly unlocks a gravestone beneath the church, unleashing demonic forces. Hell almost literally breaks loose in the church with a whole group of people becoming trapped with the awakening demonic forces.
Soavi proved to be an interesting genre director, making the above average slasher Stagefright before this, followed by The Sect and, his best film, Dellamorte Dellamore in 1994. He decided to concentrate on TV following that, thus the genre lost one of its more promising assets. Up until the mid-eighties the Italian film industry was populated with a large number of rip-offs (albeit good ones in many cases) and someone like Soavi was capable of taking material into relatively unexplored territory rather than just rehashing what the Americans had already done. The Church took me some time to appreciate but it does prove to be a rewarding experience - the demons themselves are less obviously used than in something like Demons 1 and 2 (to which this film was once announced as a sequel), and are in some ways more effective. It is a stylishly shot and fairly unusual movie.
AB’s disc was released in a period when most of their transfers look similarly grainy - this one is no different. It’s hardly unwatchable but neither is it a stellar example of what DVD is capable of. It is, however, probably the best way to view The Church currently - in fact I don’t know of any other disc releases. The sound fairs better than the picture, with a DD-EX track giving the brilliant music in particular quite a bit of weight. Overall, a pretty essential watch/purchase.