La Chiesa (1989 film)
La Chiesa (1989), AKA The Church, The Spawn of the Devil, Cathedral of Demons, Demon Cathedral, In the Land of the Demons, Demons 3
"No one has a prayer in... The Church!" An old Gothic cathedral, built over a mass grave, develops strange powers which trap a number of people inside with ghosts from a 12th Century massacre seeking to resurrect an ancient demon from the bowels of the Earth.
- Release Date: 1989
- Country/Language: Italy, English dubbing
- Genres/Technical: Horror, Art/Experimental
- Setting: Dark Ages (prologue) and 1980s "Germany" (actually filmed in Hungary by Italians)
- Runtime: 1 hr 42 min
- Starring: Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana, Feodor Chaliapin Jr.
- Director: Michele Soavi
- Writer: Dario Argento (story and screenplay), Nick Alexander (dialogue: English version), M.R. James (story "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas")
- Producer/Production Co: ADC Films, Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica, Reteitalia
- View Trailer: (link)
- TVTropes: (link)
- IMDB Page: (link)
- Rated: R (Violence, Adult Content, Profanity, Sexual Situations, brief Nudity)
A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:
- Ss___ (One and a Half Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; vaguely similar in tone)
A horror story with some Gothic overtones about a ghastly secret buried under the floor of a cathedral under renovation, whose revelation threatens to open a gate allowing some demons into this world, ushering a demon apocalypse. The film comes across a bit like a souped-up and retooled, vaguely surreal, Italian take on Evil Dead (1981 franchise)/The Evil Dead. The result is only vaguely Lovecraftian, but it does include weird-looking demons, magic scrolls, a mass grave full of body horror, an eerie portal to the Other Side, an apocalyptic tone, and a surreal and unique style all its own.
Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.
- Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Review (2/5 Stars) - (link) - "The problem with The Church is the same one shared by Argento’s films, the Demons films and those of the Argento imitator Lucio Fulci – it lacks a plot. Not much happens for a substantial part of the film and it is never particularly clear why it does."
Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
In the film's prologue, Teutonic Knights massacre an entire Dark Ages village on suspicion of witchcraft, and decide to build a cathedral over the mass grave of villagers to hide their deed and protect the world from evil. In the modern day, some renovation work is being performed on the cathedral, and the activities of workmen reveal the shaky ground that the cathedral was built on when cracks begin to appear in the walls of the church; a magic scroll containing an arcane secret is revealed, attracting the attention of a newly-hired and ambitious scholar who suspects that treasure may be hidden under the cathedral. Comedy ensues when the scholar finds a strange seal on the floor of a sub-cellar of the church, breaks the seal, opens a portal, and allows Hieronymus Bosch-inspired demons to escape and possess him and other people in the cathedral. What follows is a sort of impressionistic, non-linear, and feverish blur of bizarre and surreal scenes: we learn a rumor that every cathedral has a hidden button that, when pushed, causes the cathedral to collapse; an earthquake that occurs when the demons escape shakes the foundations and causes a secret trap to lock the only exit shut, the architect of the church died with a secret in his mouth; the possession or "contamination" by evil spreads like a plague, a large number of random people (both un-named schmucks passing by and named characters who seemed to be main characters) get killed in a bewildering number of bizarre and colourful (and deliberately ludicrous) ways typical of Dario Argento's work; demons appear, people get possessed, cults perform weird ceremonies, a teen gets her mouth washed out with soap, two no-goodniks get lost in the catacombs looking for a secret exit, monk statues move on their own, and someone at last presses the button, causing the church to collapse.
Comments, Trivia, Dedication
- Though it was originally conceived as another entry in the popular Demons (1985 franchise), director Michele Soavi insisted that the film stand alone and not be connected with the films Demons (1985) or Demons 2 (1986): in an interview, Soavi referred to the Demons films as 'pizza schlock' and wanted La Chiesa to be more sophisticated.
Associated Mythos Elements
- films - compare to:
- fiction: based (loosely?) on M.R. James' "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas")
- tome: a scroll of the Teutonic Knights
- cult: Teutonic Knights
- race: Demons
- location: Other Side, accessed through a cross-shaped portal with a seal in the middle