Halloween White Elephant: The Church (1989)

Posted by Noah Lee - October 18th 2011 @ 10:00 am

From Brian Salisbury–“I assigned Noah THE CHURCH for a couple of reasons. The first is I know he’s not really big on Italian horror, which is ultimately chief among his many character flaws. In all seriousness, I know that our intimate horror circle (a term having almost nothing to do with masturbation) loves the DEMONS franchise by Lamberto Bava and THE CHURCH is (un)officially considered the third chapter of that story. I am interested to see if I can trick Noah into liking this Italian horror film via the similarities it shares with an Italian horror film he actually enjoys. Because gift-giving, in the end, is all about trickery and hoodwinking (again not a self love term).”

When Brian assigned me The Church I was actually quite excited. I’ll be honest here and say that while I do enjoy a lot of Italian horror films, I’m not quite as enamored with the giallos that many horror fans are so fond of. I much prefer my horror like I like my whiskey, straight, on the rocks…with a lot of blood…and no mystery nonsense. Let’s just say The Church is right up my alley with its critical eye on the religious persecution of supposed witches, demonic insanity, self-mutilation and shithouse rat crazy ending.

Starting out like a demented version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a group of Teutonic Knights in the Middle Ages are led to a cave by a tattletale of an old man who claims the girl within is a witch. This is obvious, of course, because she has a cross on the bottom of her foot and that means she’s walking on Christ and is a minion of Satan. And since she’s been allowed to run free in her village, it’s now up to the Knights to slaughter every last one of those infected heathens, as well as their livestock and horses. God wouldn’t want an evil devil chicken running around would he? So they pile up the bodies of the villagers and their Satan chickens and horses and bury them, some still half alive, and cover the grave with salt and a gigantic steel cross. That’s when one of the heroes of Christ runs down a masked, robed character only to discover that it’s a young Asia Argento and we then cut to modern-day.

So damn cocksure that they did God’s work on that village, a church is erected on the same burial spot and it’s been going strong for years. Cut to modern-day 1989 and some renovations are being done on the walls of the church when one of them decides it’d be a good idea to dig up the gigantic iron cross in the basement. In doing so they find that the cross was covering what seems to be an endless hole. It also appears that Asia Argento is now around in modern-day, a reincarnation of her ancient self and once the evil demons in the basement are let loose, all manner of psychotic behavior is unleashed upon those inside the titular church.


While The Church suffers from a slow start, like many Italian films before it, once the crazy train gets rolling, it becomes a nonstop gore-soaked ride to Hell. Literally. The church is full of its own booby traps, like a temple in an Indiana Jones film, fueled by the blood of its victims. If that wasn’t enough, the demons are possessing the inhabitants of this supposed holy ground, causing them to cut their own hearts out or throw themselves on the spike of a jack hammer. It’s a joy to discover what new insanity will be thrown in your face at every new turn. And by the time you get to the ending, not even the most dementedly creative mind will be prepared for what transpires.

If you have a friend who says they don’t like Italian horror, just pop in Michele Soavi’s The Church and bask in the soon to be distorted facial reactions that are forthcoming. It’s a total joy of a movie and I have to thank Brian for letting me revisit it again sooner than I had even planned.

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  1. Noah Lee
    October 18th, 2011 | 11:04 am | #1

    Fooled you sucker! I already seen The Church and love it!

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