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The Church (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Church (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 24th, 2023.
    Director: Michele Soavi
    Cast: Tomas Arana, Feodor Chaliapin, Hugh Quarshie, Barbara Cupisiti, Antonella Vitale, Asia Argento, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Church – Movie Review:

    Michele Soavi's second feature film as a director, The Church begins with a scene in Germany set in medieval times. Here a horde of Templar Knights laid siege to a village whose inhabitants they accuse of witchcraft. The people of the village are brutally slaughtered and their bodies buried all together in one giant mass grave. As the years pass, a city grows around the area and over the pit where the corpses were disposed of, a giant - and remarkably ornate - cathedral is built.

    Cut to the modern day and a librarian named Evan (Tomas Arana) teams up with a student named Lisa (Barbara Cupisiti) to help with some restoration work on one of the church's beautiful frescoes under the watch of Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) and the local bishop (Feodor Chaliapin Jr.) while Lotte (Asia Argento), the daughter of one of the church's officials, also pokes about. In what will come as a surprise to no one, Evan eventually removes a rock in the lower part of the church, opens up a portal and unleashes a sinister and ancient evil that ties back to the opening scene and the mass grave that lies below the church. When a group of students and a crew intending to use the location for a fashion shoot arrive around the same time, the demons that were once at rest now find ample fodder for their sinister return… and a whole lot of people get possessed and then killed leaving Father Gus to try and solve all of this before it's too late.

    Originally intended as the third entry in the Argento produced Demons series, The Church works on the same level as the first two films to bear that moniker, directed by Lamberto Bava, without ripping them off. Soavi goes for the gore and uses the church the same way that Bava used the movie theater and then an apartment building as the film's main location, so the comparisons are apt, but this one feels a bit different. It's got a much stronger gothic tone to it that stems not just from the cathedral setting but also from the opening scene with the Templars and from much of the imagery that's laid out on screen once the demonic forces launch their attack. This also manifests in some of the effects set pieces and creature design that are created for the film as well as some of the costumes which harken back to the Middle Ages. There's a really strange feel to all of this, one that Soavi and his crew exploit very effectively. This results in a film that's atmospheric and weird enough that we can forgive its frequent and many logic gaps.

    The cast are decent here as well. Arana is well cast here, we have no trouble accepting him as a librarian and he and Barbara Cupisiti make a fine pair. Hugh Quarshire is good as the priest while Chaliapin does a great job as the cantankerous bishop. Giovanni Lombardo Radice pops up in a small part here, while Asia Argento, cast here in an early role, is also fine. For the most part, however, the cast play second fiddle to the effects and the look of the film. The church itself is an incredibly impressive building with some fantastic architecture and proves the perfect location to stage a picture such as this.

    The Church – UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    NOTE: This review is based on downloaded ISO files from Severin Films, not on physical discs (which were not available at the time of this writing). As such, we can’t cover inserts, packaging or anything else not included with the download files.

    Severin Films brings The Church to UHD in an HVEC encoded 2160p presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen looking really, really good. Detail is quite strong throughout, the keep in mind that the opening prologue scene was intentionally shot with a softer look in mind, and colors are quite impressive as well. The film’s color scheme is fairly bleak, what with most of it taking place inside a dimly light, old church but the primary colors used look great while we also get nice, deep black levels and natural looking skin tones.

    Audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD in English 5.1, English Stereo and Italian Stereo with subtitles provided in English and English SDH options. The 5.1 mix does a nice job of spreading out the score and effects work but each of the three tracks, based on the sampling done for this review, is properly balanced and free of any hiss or distortion. The score sounds really strong here and the dialogue is always clean, clear and easy to understand.

    Extras includes The Mystery Of The Cathedrals, a new interview with Director Michele Soavi that runs twenty minutes and sees him speaking about how he came to work with Argento after being so impressed with his work, where some of the ideas for the movie came from, how Argento helped him with growing his career, the religious elements of the storyline, what it was like on set during near constant rain, the effects and design work needed for the movie, the influence of Bosch's artwork, working with the cast and crew and wanting to keep viewers hypnotized by what they were seeing on screen.

    Alchemical Possession is a thirteen minute interview with Co-Screenwriter/Producer Dario Argento who talks about how he and Soavi first came to work together, his concerns about how Soavi didn't have a lot of experience before their early collaborations, becoming very good friends with him quite quickly, how great Soavi was on set and what he brought to the movie, where the initial inspiration came from, shooting in Hungary and what they had to do to the church location to get it to be workable, working with his daughter Asia on the movie, the influence of Falcenelli and his writing about alchemy, the film's score and its commercial success.

    The Eleventh Commandment interviews co-screenwriter Franco Ferrini for thirteen minutes about how he came to work with Argento on the script, what it was like collaborating with him, how the project was originally meant for Lamberto Bava, how some of the ideas in the script came from Soavi, the importance of creating good characters, thoughts on the performances in the film and how the film did when initially released.

    The Ghostwriter is an interview with Co-Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti who talks about how he signed a legal agreement stating that he can't actually talk about The Church, but he then goes on to talk about collaborating with Bava and wanting to make a new movie with him, the success of Demons and its impact, how this idea eventually morphed into The Church, his relationship with Argento and quite a bit more. His story is fairly convoluted but pretty interesting!

    Lotte is a nine minute interview with Actress Asia Argento where she speaks about memories of the church itself where the movie was shot, how it was deconsecrated so the movie could be shot there, getting along with other kids during the shoot, staying in Budapest, getting along with Soavi who was a family friend, memories of shooting specific scenes and more.

    Here Comes The Bride spends eleven minutes interviewing Actress Antonella Vitale who talks about how she came to be cast in the movie, details on her character and how much she enjoyed the role, working with Soavi, what it was like working in Budapest, the church location, working with the other cast and crew members and specifically with Asia Argento, dealing with effects work for her key scene and other details.

    A Demon Named Evan is an interview with Actor Tomas Arana that runs twenty-six minutes where he talks about where his career was at the time and how this was the first time he got the play the lead, getting along with Soavi, thoughts on his character, recollections of shooting key scenes including the possession scene, how Argento and Soavi got along, working with the other cast members, the quality of the camera work in the movie and the importance of being able to trust your director.

    Father Giovanni talks with the late, great Actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice for fourteen minutes where he talks about how he got the role, his friendship with Soavi and how they first came to work together, why Soavi is one of the best directors and how passionate he is, what Argento was like to work with and what he was like on set, what it's like to play a priest, getting along with his fellow cast members (including some very specific memories of Asia!), how much fun they had in Budapest when the cameras weren't rolling and how he feels Soavi has gone on to cut himself off from his past horror work.

    Monsters And Demons interview Special FX Artist Sergio Stivaletti for twenty minutes about how he came to work on the project, its connections to the Demons movies, working with Soavi, details of creating certain effects set pieces featured in the movie, the influence of art on the film and of Bosch specifically, the difficulties involved in working on more than one film at the same time and challenges that arose on the shoot.

    Holy Ground talks with Make-Up Artist Franco Casagni for ten minutes about how he got his start in the business, meeting Argento through a friend, getting the job on The Church, working in Budapest, some of the other makeup artists he worked with, memories of Argento and Soavi, working with the cast and crew, where there is beauty in the first half of the film and how he feels about the movie overall.

    Building The Church is a twenty–one minute interview with Set Designer Antonello Geleng who speaks about how fulfilling the project was, working with Soavi for the first time, logistical challenges that arose during the shoot, not being able to make the movie in a real church in Italy due to its content, what it was like shooting in Hungary, the expense that went into creating some of the sets, working on the medieval prologue and memories of the people he worked with on the movie.

    The Right-Hand Man sees Assistant Director Claudio Lattanzi speak for seventeen minutes about collaborating with Soavi and Argento, initial thoughts on the screenplay, how challenging a production it was, how Soavi left his own mark on the movie despite Argento's influence, what went into shooting key scenes including the complex finale, memories of working with the different cast and crew members, his own abilities as an actor, the film's success and if having Argento's name on the poster helped with that and how the film distribution scene was different when the movie was made compared to how it is today.

    Return To The Land Of The Demons is a six minute interview with Alan Jones, Author Of Profondo Argento, that goes over how Soavi and Argento came to meet and work together, their early projects, what their relationship was like, how The Church began as a third film in the Demons series, how Soavi came to direct it, where Argento's influence is in the film, thoughts on the cast, where Soavi's career has gone since making this movie, the film's score and more.

    Finishing up the extras a trailer for the feature, a VHS promo for the Southgate Entertainment release, menus and chapter selection options. Finished retail discs should come with an insert booklet, some fancy packaging and a soundtrack CD.

    The Church - The Final Word:

    The Church is a wonderfully twisted slice of gothic horror with some great effects and loads of style. Severin has rolled out the red carpet for the movie with this release, presenting The Church in a really strong 4k presentation and with a host of new extras that leave no stone unturned in regards to exploring the movie’s history.



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Church Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
    Administrator
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 11-24-2023, 12:40 PM.

    • Trench
      #1
      Trench commented
      Editing a comment
      Looking forward to this and the other two Soavi titles. Anyone know what the holdup is? Severin doesn't seem to be shipping these out yet.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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