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

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

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 24th, 2023.
    Directed by: Michele Soavi
    Cast: Kelly Curtis, Herbert Lom, Mariangela Giordano, Michel Adatte, Giovanni Lombardo Radici
    Year: 1991
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Sect – Movie Review:

    Directed by Michaele Soavi for co-writer/producer Dario Argento in 1991, The Sect may have been made in the twilight years of the Italian horror boom but don't let that dissuade you. It's an atmospheric and darkly strange tale with some great set pieces, solid performances and an engaging story made by a skilled director and some more than competent associates.

    In the California of 1970, we open with a group of hippies having a decadent celebration, a party if you will, complete with goofy little hippie kids that is interrupted when an intense Manson-like figure named Damon (Tomas Arana) arrives. Soon enough Damon and his minions have slaughtered the hippies and he's over talking to an unseen person in a limousine about an event yet to take place.

    From there, the film skips to the present day of 1991 and lands in Frankfurt, Germany where we see a man carrying a human heart (Giovani Lombardo Radice) run from the police and then kill himself before those cops can capture him. From here, an American named Miriam Kreisl (Kelly Curtis) works as a teacher. After she almost has runs over an old man named Moebius Kelly (Herbert Lom), she winds up basically letting the old man stay with her out of guilt. But what at first seemed like a random stroke of bad luck soon turns out to have been premeditated. Before you know it a string of murders has taken place and Mobius appears to be trying to indoctrinate Miriam into a cult of devil worshippers tied into the murders.

    If the plot occasionally goes off the rails now and then, it regains traction towards the end and provides a satisfying conclusion. Even when the story does meander, the visuals are strong enough and the performances good enough to keep our attention. You could argue that Soavi could have trimmed the film a bit to speed up the pacing, and you wouldn't be wrong, but even if it is about ten to fifteen minutes longer than it probably needs to be there's still a lot to like about The Sect.

    There are shades of Rosemary's Baby here but The Sect carves out its own interesting spot in the Satanic cult sub-genre of horrordom quite nicely. Soavi has always had a knack for loading his horror pictures with fantastic visuals (see Stagefright, The Church or Cemetery Man for more evidence of that) and that trend is just as obvious in this picture as it is in his others. Cinematographer Raffaele Mertes, who shot Trauma for Argento a few years later, does typically excellent work behind the camera framing everything with enough of an artist's eye to ensure that there's always something to catch our attention. Of course, the fact that there's a genuinely great score from the prolific Pino Donaggio doesn't hurt things either. The music that he composed for this particular picture really heightens the tension and the overall weirdness that the film brings to the screen in seriously healthy doses.

    The cast is also quite good. Tomas Arana cuts an imposing frame in the opening scene, he's quite intimidating and used well in this role. Herbert Lom tends to steal every scene that he's in, it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job in this particular part than he; any time he is on the screen we want to know more about what he's up to and why. As to the lead? Kelly Curtis (the older sister of a certain Halloween star) does a really good job here and it makes you wonder why she didn't have a bigger career in genre pictures or even more mainstream fare than she did. She's likeable, attractive and interesting and most importantly, her acting is strong. Supporting work from Mariangela Giordano, Donald O'Brien and the unforgettable Giovanni Lombardo Radice (sadly underused but still fantastic in the small part) add to the fun, and look for uncredited appearances by Daria Nicoladi and director Saovi himself.

    The Sect – 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 Sect to UHD framed at 1.85.1 in an HVEC encoded 2160p presentation that looks excellent. Colors look nice throughout and there’s very strong detail here, even in the film’s many darker indoor sequences. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and there are no obvious issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. The image is very clean, showing virtually no print damage but retaining the natural film grain you’d hope it would. Depth and texture are consistently strong as well.

    Audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles available in English and English SDH. No problems to note here, both tracks sound clean, clear and properly balanced with a fair amount of depth, particularly when it comes to the score.

    Extras start off with Sympathy For The Devil, an interview with Director Michele Soavi running twenty minutes where he talks about how Dario Argento's movies had a huge impact on him and how they came to work together, becoming interested in esotericism after making The Church, the influence of Gustav Meyrink on the project, shooting in Germany, working with the cast and crew and his admiration for Kelly Curtis, getting Herbert Lom to appear in the movie, how the roots of the film tie into Celtic culture, the use of symbolism in the movie and how the film was successful, if not as successful as The Church.

    Co-Screenwriter/Producer Dario Argento is up next in (You’re The) Devil In Disguise, which runs fifteen minutes. This piece goes over how he and Soavi first met and came to work together, the comfort level that he had with his collaborator, how The Sect was born through a complicated origin, the influence of Lovecraft on the movie, thoughts on the performances and how he feels about having his name all over the marketing materials for the movie rather than Soavi's.

    Catacumba is an interview with Co-Screenwriter Gianni Romoli that clocks in at just under thirty-six minutes. He talks about how the project started and how he came to work on it, collaborating with Argento and Soavi, the additional exposure that having Argento's name attached to the project brought them, his thoughts on Soavi's directorial efforts, having to keep aspects of the story very simple, thoughts on the characters in the movie and the performances, his thoughts on horror films and their rabid fan base, going on to work with Argent on on Trauma and his thoughts on where Soavi's career has gone since making Cemetery Man.

    In Cult Of Personality, actor Tomas Arana talks for twenty minutes about how he got the part in the film of 'Damon,' initial thoughts on the script and his character, shooting specific scenes, Soavi's direction, his thoughts on Charles Manson and other cult leaders, why he doesn't look at himself in a mirror when in costume and makeup, working with the effects and makeup teams, thoughts on Kelly Curtis and how much he enjoyed working with her and how thankful he is to have made the movies he did with Soavi.

    Owner Of A Lonely Heart interviews Actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice for twelve minutes about how he met and came to work with Soavi, how The Sect was their third collaboration, taking a small role because he was doing a lot of stage work at the time, not having read the entire script once his character died off, how he's never seen the whole movie, shooting in Germany, working with kids, shooting the escalator scene and his death scene and why he likes Soavi as much as he does.

    Cinematographer Raffaele Mertes speaks his piece in In The Shaded Area where, over twenty-eight minutes, he talks about where his career was at during this time, working with Soavi and Argento on the movie, what went into creating the visuals that we see in the movie, the lighting and camera angles that were employed, using Steadicams in certain shots, the intense shooting schedule, why filmmaking requires patience and dedication, shooting the well scene with Herbert Lom and how the film was received upon release.

    Four Times Argento is an interview with Composer Pino Donaggio that runs thirteen minutes and lets him talk about meeting Argento for the first time on Two Evil Eyes and what he has been like to collaborate with, how he came to work on The Sect, what went into creating the score for the movie and the range of sounds in its soundtrack, why he opted not to score Wax Mask, scoring Trauma and where some of his inspiration came from.

    Total Eclipse spends thirteen minutes with Special FX Artist Sergio Stivaletti where he talks about how ambitious the film was, what made it unique, having to create effects that were more subtle, the surreal aspects of the movie, how certain effects set pieces were created, digital versus practical effects, which parts of the project he was most enthusiastic about and how Soavi is able to transmit emotions to the audiences that see his horror films.

    Oh Well is an interview with Set Designer Antonello Geleng that spends twenty-three minutes going over how he first came to work with Soavi, shooting most of the film on a soundstage and how that differs from location shooting, where he contributed ideas to the movie, creating the well scene and the California desert scene, his thoughts on some of the performers including Kelly Curtis and the optical effects created for the movie.

    The Birth Of Evil interviews Film Historian Fabrizio Spurio for twenty-five minute about Soavi's career, the history of The Sect, some of the themes and ideas that the movie explores, the religious aspects of the story, the depiction of evil in the film and how it differs from The Church, thoughts on specific key scenes and more. He also shows off a few leftover props from the movie before it's all over!

    Into The Dark Well is an interview with Alan Jones, Author Of Profondo Argento, that lets him talk for just over five minutes about how the project came about, how Argento and Soavi came to collaborate on the movie, changes that were made to the script, the influence of a well in his family home on the story, the German locations, thoughts on how the film turned out and the performances, getting a phone call from Herbert Lom and the impact that the end of the film has.

    In Catacomb In The Kitchen, Michele Soavi shows us his dark basement in a three minute piece in which he takes us on a tour of a strange catacomb-like area below his kitchen that wound up having an influence on The Sect.

    Finishing up the extras are an Italian trailer, a U.S. Release Trailer, menus and chapter selection. Finished retail product will also include some deluxe packaging, an insert booklet and a soundtrack CD.

    The Sect - The Final Word:

    The Sect holds up well. It's a startlingly strange film that moves at its own deliberate pace but which combines some good performances with fantastic art direction, effective FX work and an engagingly macabre storyline to create something genuinely unique. Severin’s 4k reissue looks and sounds great and it loaded with some well-made extras that do a great job of peeling back the layers of the film’s history.



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

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