Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chiesa, La (1989)

...aka: Cathedral of Demons
...aka: Church, The
...aka: Demon Cathedral
...aka: Demons 3
...aka: In the Land of the Demons

Directed by:
Michele Soavi

What could have been an 80s genre classic unfortunately degenerates into silliness after all hell literally breaks loose. In an excellent prologue, Teutonic knights slaughter an entire village of people, throw the dead bodies in a crypt, seal it and place a giant cross on top. Years later, a beautiful Italian cathedral stands on top of the same cursed plot of land, and when a renovation crew destroys the floor, the church seals the doors, trapping various characters (clergymen, a photography crew, a bunch of - ugh- little kids on a field trip, etc.) inside. The new librarian (Tomas Arana) becomes possessed, others follow and if you've seen the first two DEMONS movies (this was also released overseas as DEMONS 3) you pretty much know what to expect next. The cinematography, special effects, art direction and music score (with bits contributed by Keith Emerson, Goblin and Philip Glass) are all excellent and Soavi, a Dario Argento disciple, has obviously learned the ropes from his teacher when it comes to overall style and presentation. Unfortunately, after a very good opening hour, this makes the mistake of trying to pile on too much mumbo jumbo (including a silly direct lift from ROSEMARY'S BABY), which undermines an otherwise first rate, atmospheric and stylish horror film. Attempts at comedy (more prevalent in the second half) also seem out of place.
Argento wrote and produced and that's his daughter Asia Argento in her second horror role as Lotte, the abusive reverend's kid, who knows how to sneak in and out of the church using underground catacombs. The cast also includes Barbara Cupisti as an art restorer, Hugh Quarshie as a priest, Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. as the elderly bishop, Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen) as the reverend, Antonella Vitale (from OPERA) as a fashion model, John Richardson (BLACK SUNDAY) as an architect and John Karlsen as an old man whose decapitated head is used to ring a bell. Soavi also has a cameo as a police officer. The best gore effect is when a woman's head gets smashed by a subway train. R and unrated versions were released in the United States in 1990. The uncut version runs 102 minutes, and the cut version has 4 minutes removed.


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