Halloween White Elephant: La Setta (1991)

Posted by Damon Swindall - October 19th 2011 @ 10:00 am

La Setta Poster

From Brian Kelley–“Though far from prolific, Michele Soavi is probably my favorite Italian horror film director. This film is considered the 4th in the DEMONS series (Soavi’s THE CHURCH was the 3rd). Neither of Soavi’s entries have any real relation to Lamberto Bava’s originals. While LA SETTA takes a while to get off the ground (after an opening that turns America’s ‘A Horse with No Name’ into an uber-creepy ballad) it descends into Soavi’s typical visually striking horror. Any horror fan owes it to him or herself to watch Soavi’s entire filmography.”

It only took about two minutes into this movie before I had a good idea as to why Brian Kelley chose this particular film for me to watch. We open with a group of hippies in the desert in 1970 and a mysterious stranger makes his way to their huddle looking for food and water. By nightfall he has killed the children of the group and some of the hippies. What is this psychopath’s name, you ask? Damon – of course.

The rest of the film takes place in “present” day 1991 in Germany where there has been a recent surge in murders across the country all seeming to stem from a satanic cult of some sort. An old man, Moebius Kelly (Herbert Lom), is traveling with a suspicious parcel when he is almost run over by a car. The driver, Miriam Kreisl (Kelly Curtis), rushes to his aid and offers to take him to her place for rest where it soon becomes evident that their encounter was no accident and there are some very evil plans in the works.

La Setta (aka The Sect, aka Demons 4) is the third feature effort by Michele Soavi, a young ambitious Italian horror director who worked closely with Dario Argento and had a promising career ahead. For what ever reason he only made one more feature before heading to the word of TV and TV movies. Recently he has made a couple more films but nothing like his horror roots. Having now seen all four I can say that Soavi has a definite intriguing style and plenty to say, it’s a shame he cut his career so short. This film’s surrealist, religion-themed horror makes a great companion piece to his previous movie The Church, though it’s not quite the better of the two. There are still plenty of great things about this picture amidst the confusion thanks to the expressive filmmaking style Soavi employs to take you on the dreamlike journey though this woman’s hell.

Of the highlights on display, one is definitely the few extraordinary gory sequences. Italian FX guru Sergio Stivaletti had his hand in the mix along with a few other talented artists to bring some terrifying birds to life that peck worms from inside Miriam’s neck, or the truly cringe-inducing moment of Moebius’ putting an insect on her face so it can burrow its way up her nose. If you have any phobia of bugs crawling on you this will not help you sleep at night, that’s for sure.

Another shining aspect of the film is the two lead actors. I’m not sure how much of Kelly Curtis’ (yep, Jamie Lee’s older sister) career I’ve seen, but she does a terrific job and the family resemblance comes through on more than one occasion. The real asset to this picture is Mr. Herbert Lom. This is a man who has been around for many, many years and acted in all genres. To most he’s known for his law enforcement role in the Pink Panther films. But we horror fans know him from the horror roles, mostly in the 70s, for many Amicus Pictures and classics like Murders in the Rue Morgue. Each time these two are on screen you are in for a treat.

So far this has been my favorite of these White Elephant films, and the next will have to be quite awesome to knock it from that spot. The only downside is this further proves what a great horror filmmaker Soavi was becoming – full of such unique vision and passion. Hopefully someday Argento’s protégé will make his way back to the beloved genre but his four film collection, adding StageFright and Cemetery Man to the previously mentioned two, is a must have for horror fans.

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  1. October 27th, 2011 | 6:30 am | #1

    I loved The Church. I haven’t seen an Argento film for a while now. Thank you for reminding me how wonderful his work was. Now I must watch some good Italian horror!

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