Church, The / La chiesa (1989)

2.5 out of 5

Despite an engaging medieval opening sequence, it quickly becomes apparent that director Michele Soavi’s first collaboration with overly hands-on producer Argento is simply a tired retread of Demons; indeed the film was originally conceived as a second sequel to that already derivative splatter fest. Sadly The Church fails to be anywhere near as much fun as either of its knuckle-headed antecedents.

There are flashes of brilliance. Soavi’s visuals are often breathtaking, utilising sumptuous set design, lighting, bravura camerawork and effective make-up effects in a way that would make Mario Bava proud. The film also boasts some decent performances from Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana, John Morghen and a very young Asia Argento.

If only these achievements could have been married up with the sheer tension and drive of something like Soavi’s earlier Stagefright – as one suspects they might have been if Argento had just let the younger director get on with it. The end result is a muddled, tedious and ultimately hollow B-movie with delusions of grandeur.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics