director Michele Soavi
Michele Soavi’s The Church opens on some crusading medieval knights slaughtering cowering peasants who are apparently sworn against the church, marked as some of them are with crosses on the soles of their feet. Thrown into a mass grave, it’s unclear if the dead are already arising as they are buried, but a final escapee is caught, the teenage Asia Argento.
This is the prelude to the present-day setting, in a Gothic church in an unnamed European location, a mishmash of location settings. This church was built atop the bodies of the damned, constructed to self-destruct by a tortured architect, and has stood until now, as it begins to decay and release its repressed demons.
And demons to come out, in many hallucinogenic forms to the many who find themselves trapped within the church as its one set of doors shut. But this is the mixed messaging here: are the demons real demons? So were the knights right in killing those who worshiped otherwise? Or was the church always the real villain, and the return is only the much-deserved revenge on those Catholic/Christian repressors and murderers? After all is said and done, the final image of Asia Argento’s mysterious smile seems to indicate further return of the repressed evil.
Wheresoever Soavi places the good and the evil in this film, its strengths are in its vivid imagery, as incoherent, disconnected, and dream-like as it gets. Each person imprisoned, from child to aged adult, seems to receive some tailored terror of their very own. My favorite image was the cross in the floor dropping into the blackness below.
Outside its rather mixed message of righteousness, I quite liked it.