The Church is not to be confused with Michele Soavi’s epic slice of Italian horror, or a remake of it. Writer/director Dom Frank’s film is a much smaller and more restrained film. How much more restrained you ask? Well, the pre-title sequence involves two guys demanding to see the pastor. We get some oddly angled shots of the outside of the church, some ominous whispering on the soundtrack, and the guys have vanished without a trace. That’s how restrained.
Pastor James (Bill Moseley, Shed Of The Dead, Exorcism at 60,000 Feet) is the latest in a line of pastors at his family’s once-thriving church. He’s also the only holdout to a developer’s offer to buy out much of the decaying neighbourhood. This does not make him popular with his neighbours or the corrupt developers. His wife Loretta (Michelle Romano) favours taking the money and opening a big flashy upscale church.
Pressured from all sides he agrees to a meeting. This really annoys the spirits dwelling in the church, who don’t take kindly to being threatened with eviction.
The cast of The Church also includes Clint Howard (Evilspeak, House Of The Dead) and Lisa Wilcox (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and 5, Dark Ritual). Add that to a plot that seemed to channel The Fog and I had hopes of an undiscovered treasure. Instead, it’s a confusing and fairly silly mess.
We see an old piece of newspaper with a headline “Church burns wicked immigrant family” and a flashback that infers, but doesn’t show, them being burned at the stake. The problem is the paper looks like it’s not from colonial times, but the 19th century. I don’t think the church was still openly executing people by that point. At least not in Philadelphia.
If The Church had even run with that aspect and gone for a We Are Still Here vibe it could have worked. Instead, we get people dissolving into CGI ash or dragged off to some kind of purgatory or low rent Hell. This does have some unintentionally funny moments such as a mob goon played by WWE wrestler Vito “Big Vito” LoGrasso trying to take on the spirits with a crowbar.
It comes down to a confrontation that doesn’t do much except let Clint Howard get his five minutes of screen time. It also features some CGI that even SyFy would reject as unusable. Then we get a final sequence that ends it on as big a cop-out as possible.
The Church was shot in Philadelphia’s First Corinthian Baptist Church and Frank makes good use of the setting. That’s about all the film has going for it. If the already announced sequel happens, we can only hope it’s with a better writer and effects team at least.