“The Church” – Chris Luedtke

I’m all for most horror sequels in many cases. Certain pieces, though, such as the incredible Psycho, have not needed sequels simply because what they offered in the beginning was so ridiculously good, a follow-up was bound to disappoint. Of course, none of those films have managed to measure up to the first installment. The four-part Demons saga is a series that has seen a rocky history. The first two installments were pretty good, but The Ogre: Demons 3 and The Chruch (also known as Demons 3) have thrown the series through a rough finish.

The Church begins calmly enough, with a group of crusaders descending upon a small village they believe to be full of Satanists. To cleanse the land, they slaughter the village and build a gothic cathedral to cover up the grisly disaster. Enter the present day, where a new librarian named Evan (Thomas Arana) has come to work at the cathedral. During his stay, he and Lotte (Asia Argento) uncover some ancient scripts. Surprised and bewildered by his find, Evan decides to translate the scripts, but in doing so, he accidentally unleashes demonic forces into the church. Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) and Lisa (Barbara Cupisti) are the only ones left that can stop the forces from unleashing the ultimate evil.

If you’re familiar with the first two Demons films, then you’ll realize that The Church is a much different approach to the formula. This could partially be because this one has a different director (Michele Soavi, as opposed to Lamberto Bava). I think the biggest reason behind the change in director begs the question, “How many films can one really make where all hell breaks loose?” The first two Demons movies were great because they felt so unpredictable. The Church feels so much more controlled. It doesn’t have the break-neck pace that its two predecessors have. The plot moves much slower, and at times it just feels uninteresting. I would count this as the films biggest setback. Co-writer Dario Argento could’ve at least made up for a lack of plot by throwing in some fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat terror.

The Church also doesn’t really keep us with one character or at least provide what could be considered a main character. We sort of switch around, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does get sort of irritating to cast aside the two characters we know the best for a pair of characters we hardly know. It does throw us for a loop, though when we finally realize it, it was an interesting and, due to certain circumstances, intelligent move nonetheless.

Another huge and unfortunate change is not only the lack of insane chaos, but the fact that demons do more haunting than slaughtering. Whereas normally a demon would just come up and tear a character limb from limb, here we see them hovering over the victims or inducing insane visions before them. With this, the demons still possess some people, but they feel so mild; it’s as if the battle could be won with them if only victims could step back and try to mentally push them away.

The Church is weak when compared to Demons and Demons 2. But it stands firm above the detestable The Ogre: Demons 3. If you’re an Argento fan, then you need to see The Church once you’ve seen its
predecessors. The Church doesn’t have much to offer in terms of closure to the series, but who’s to say that someone couldn’t finally come around and give this series one final hurrah and fix everything that’s been screwed up?

Rating: ★★☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

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