Tuesday, January 18, 2011

THE CHURCH (1989) - the most boring place on earth just got balls out exciting, thanks to the demented Italians and their gothic horrors

The second in a very unofficial (i.e. only recognized by myself) underage Asia Argento horror trilogy (the others being Demons 2 and Trauma), The Church is another one of those Italian horror movies where Satan is unleashed (or your preferred source of evil) and random awesome shit happens and people get killed (see Fulci's Gates of Hell and The Beyond). Anyone can die at any time, just like real life (except for Asia; she's too adorable). Where as the American horror counterpart may show a coed getting decapitated with a chainsaw (which is awesome in it's own way, granted), the Italians really go for baroque (I apologize up front for that one, and on the back end for that matter), twisting a great tradition of gothic art into something cinematic and sinister, leaving teenagers limbless in it's wake.

The Church makes this dynamic the central core of the plot, what with the lovely Barbara Cupitsi (of Soavi's Stage Fright) working at a cathedral, restoring one of those rad paintings of Satan eating people and looking awesome. I'm not sure why a beautiful old church would have a giant painting of Satan hanging on the wall, not to mention the creepy gargoyles. It looks more like a place where Glenn Danzig would spend his summers, but what the heck do I know about religion.

The painting, along with a creepy priest and some ancient parchments (and a Knights Templar prologue), all help to unleash an avalanche of Satanic tomfoolery. I could make the case that director Michele Soavi goes postmodern within the genre at hand, just as he did with Stage Fright, where the killer existed to knowingly create stylish set pieces, rather than given a traditional back story and motive and what have you. However, I'm no Jacques Derrida. Even Derrida would argue that even he is no Jacques Derrida, but a combination of identity, self and otherwise, and an undeconstructable human mass of chemicals and what have you. Granted, "mass of chemicals" is a deconstructed label, but I gotta call him something. It's hard to make a reference to something without using words, as no one will know what the hell you're referring to. Boy, language is fucking confusing.

If you're not turned on by post-modernism, there's always Asia Argento. Of course, I'm referring to the adult version, and not the cutie pie underage version from the aforementioned trilogy. Granted, she has a nude shower scene in Trauma, but it was clearly of an artistic nature. I'm no pervert folks. Really I'm not.

So, in summary, if you like horror movies, please watch this fucker asap. It's on Netflix instant watch in the U.S. as we speak. Canadians and other weird foreigners may be up Shit's Creek without a paddle, but if you take a vacation to a place called "Shit's Creek", you deserve whatever is coming to you. Therefore, I don't want to spoil all of the random gothic horror foolishness when you can just as easily watch it yourself. However, I would like to make mention of one quick throwaway. You see, when I initially saw the film (maybe 2002), I had an instant feeling of deja vu come over my body when I saw this:

I soon realized where I had seen this image. It's a recreation of a Boris Vallejo painting, forced into the film for no logical purpose. Then again, logic had already been tossed into the paper shredder by the time this small bit shows up, so maybe it make sense on a thematic or subconscious level. Instead of an old painting causing various horrors, here we have an odd erotic horror insert modeled after a modern painting. I guess it's all a part of Michele Soavi's self-reflexivity, a feverish anagram of the old and the new, where different mediums crash into each other in reckless hyper-exstasis. To put it another way: Satan + naked chicks = awesome.

While we're on the topic, here's another bit of reused Boris Vallejo artwork antics I noticed. I propose that the following VHS cover art for the Italian swashbuckler Ms. Stiletto is based off of another Vallejo painting, whether a variation painted by Mr. Boris himself, or possibly a slightly illegal appropriation.

Either way, it's some more epic Vallejo-penned ass on display. The man is a genius. While he paints a decidedly erotic portrait of demon sex, I would advise against any sort of demon/ lizard man affair in the real world, as it always ends in heartache, just like those satanic contracts penned in blood. Reptiles make selfish lovers, and will slither away with your heart, and anything else they can get their claws on.

P.S. This was written as part of Stacie Ponder's Final Girl film club. Read her review here, or Satan will grab your ass and leave claw marks. Even if your into that sort of thing, I think you should still read it.


  1. Your proposed "trilogy" has some credence given the fact that "The Church" has also been released under the name "Demon 3." Something like Lucio Fulci's "Zombi 2"...

  2. @Stuart
    Yeah, but I think it was not originally meant to be a sequel to DEMONS, and Asia plays a different character I think. Either way, we can just pretend that her character carries over between films.

  3. Satan + naked chicks = awesome. My kinda math! I don't know Derrida, but "language is fucking confusing" made me think of the Burroughs aphorism "language is a virus." A most excellent and groovy post.

  4. Great review, I'm not a fan of asia's acting but then I don't think she was there for being a thespian.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  5. Awesome write-up! I just watched this the other night and totally forgot it was a FinalGirl Film Club pick... Sadly, I wrote nothing because of it. Bummer. Keep up the great work!

  6. @John
    I always thought the Burroughs quote was sorta like a pessimist/outsider view of Marshall McLuhan's theories of media extensions (a virus has a negative connotation, while an "extension" does not).

    My point was that it's difficult for most people to deconstruct language, because you have to use language to do so. Derrida does so in the most complicated ways imaginable, which makes most of his work, IMO, needlessly convoluted and lengthy. Chomsky puts it better than I could in this essay about his disdain for post-modernism: http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html

  7. @Lazarus
    She was there to be cute! I think she's done some pretty good acting throughout her career though.