Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Church

  Being a fan of completely weird movies with lots of atmosphere, The Church (a.k.a. La Chiesa) is one I'm surprised I haven't seen alot sooner. From the same minds that brought you Demons, comes this little slice of  strangeness. With a healthy dose of warped imagery and plenty of gore, you can tell right now if this is going to be up your alley or not. If it is, and you want further convincing, read on.

  Starting in the days of the Templars, with knights, and bad dudes on horseback, we see a horrible tragedy up close. A whole village of families slaughtered in a hunt for a single witch. These types of things generally spawn a bit of unrest... with some vengeful spirits and grudge curses. The perfect fodder for movies like this. Anyway, one day people decided they needed to build a church obviously. So they built a big cathedral right over the spot of that horrible atrocity...
Cause... you know... that makes sense. Well, it did to someone anyways. However, despite it's weighty premise and graphic brutality, it's not long before you realize the movie is just a show. It's all about smoke and mirrors so to speak. It doesn't attempt to live up to the stage it's set for itself with anything... I dunno, important? Thoughtful? Instead, it traps a bunch a people in the cathedral once the curse or whatever is unleashed and people start dying. One by one.

  If this sounds familiar... it's because it's the generic setup for any cookie cutter horror movie.  Fortunately The Church rises above mediocrity with fantastic effects and a properly nightmarish tone throughout that few movies achieve with such effectiveness. However, suffice it to say, if you're looking for anything intellectual here, the best you can do is read into the disturbing imagery. That's about it. Characters are creepy, they creep around, doing creepy things. Being generally...creepy. There's also a girl and her family who work at the cathedral. They're kinda weird too. Oh, and then there's a priest, a young(ish) black man, who practices archery in his spare time. You'd think that'd come into play when it becomes obvious that he's the hero. Despite being the one person with the least amount of screentime...

But, no. It never does. He gets a vision or something while practicing, but that's it. He (spoilers?) "saves" the day without utilizing any of his archery prowess. I call bullshit. If you're going to set us up for something amazing like that, and then not deliver? I'll take the karate-chopping priest from Dead Alive over this psuedo-Denzel Washington any day.

  In movies like this, because they're alot more shallow than they'd like you to believe, most of the effort goes into giving you a good show. Good special effects, lots of gore, some T&A, et cetera. It's because of this that I can't believe they passed up the chance to have the priest save the day with a bow and arrow. It would've made about as much sense as the rest of the damn movie.  Having said that, the rest of the damn movie, is actually worth the watch if you're into this kinda thing. The imagery and special effects lend themselves nicely to the unsettling and disturbing tone of the movie. It's all really really well done and as far as these types of shallow yet religious horror movies go... this is one of the best I've seen. They almost got the balance right. And I'll say right now, it's a damn sight better than The Keep.

  All in all, I loved it. It was unsettling, the special effects were great, the imagery was great. That is about all I expected from it. It's the kind of movie that would fuel those nightmares you get that also seem like great ideas for horror movies. In fact, if you think about that, this might've been one of those nightmare-inspired movies to begin with. It's simple enough, with a decent framework, yet vague and creepy enough that it feels like a bad dream. A good bad dream at that. If that makes any kind of sense. It's full of morbidly intriguing things and sights that draw people to movies like this. People wanna see this stuff up close, so long as they're on the other side of the screen, safe and sound. Few movies show you these things this up close, for whatever reason they don't, this movie isn't concerned with that. Bring on the blood and satanic rams' heads. The Church is where it's at.

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