Church, The (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Apr 12, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Church, The (4K UHD Review)


Michele Soavi

Release Date(s)

1989 (April 30, 2024)


Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica/TriStar Pictures (Severin Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B

The Church (4K UHD)



After the success of Demons and Demons 2, Lamberto Bava wanted to make a third film in the Demons (Demoni) series. Dario Argento, who had produced the previous two films, wasn’t keen on a follow-up. Though a script had been written, the project eventually morphed into a slightly more sophisticated horror film with Michele Soavi (The Sect, Cemetery Man) at the helm. The result was The Church (aka La Chiesa), a film with style to spare, but a story not that easy to follow.

During medieval times, a group of knights led by an obsessive order of priests hunt down a band of witches and devil-worshipers, killing them and building a large cathedral over their mass grave. Many years later, the church is under restoration, and with the arrival of the new librarian, a sleeping evil is waiting to be set loose. The librarian discovers the hidden underground secret of the church, but is quickly possessed, infecting everyone that he comes into contact with. The church soon becomes a breeding ground for demons, with few souls able to make it out alive.

Despite the strong visuals and a few memorable moments, The Church is a mess when it comes to its plotting. Random events seem to occur with little to no setup, which one might argue is the direct effect of demonic possession and witchcraft, but in this case, it makes for a confusing narrative. The film also feels like it’s struggling with trying not to veer into more traditional horror territory, as if it has an identity crisis of sorts. There are a couple of extreme death scenes, including an impractical use of a jackhammer (impractical meaning not useful for its intended purpose, but very effective otherwise). These scenes, and others like it, feel out of place in a film attempting to set itself apart from other works featuring the same type of intense carnage.

The Church also features a very young Asia Argento in a key role. She would go on to star in a number of projects, including many Italian horror films, but here she feels underutilized. The English dub doesn’t aid the film either. As with many dubs, some of the vocal performances can be poor, even comical. On the other hand, The Church is brimming with ideas, but none of them coalescing into a comprehensible story, meaning that the anticipatory showstopping outcome (which oddly enough is evocative of Society’s breathtakingly disgusting finale) falls a bit flat.

The Church was shot by cinematographer Renato Tafuri (Dario Argento’s Opera) on 35 mm film using spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Severin Films brings the film to Ultra HD from a director-approved 4K scan of the original camera negative in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are provided), and presented on a BD-100 disc. This release offers a significant uptick in fine detail with prominent by finely-attenuated grain, only minor speckling, and a consistent bitrate that runs primarily between 80 to 100Mbps. The color palette is boosted dutifully thanks to the new HDR grades, enhancing some of the finer aspects of the church interiors and exteriors, facial textures, clothing, and special effects make-up appliances. The film tends to lean towards the darkness for much of its running time, meaning blacks run deeper with excellent contrast. It’s a stable and highly organic presentation.

Audio is offered in English 5.1, English 2.0, and Italian 2.0, all DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, with optional subtitles in English SDH and English for the Italian audio. The English tracks are mostly identical as the 2.0 track appears to be a fold-down of the 5.1. Both are fine options, but the dubbing, as mentioned above, is less than stellar. It’s much more obvious and has very little dimension sonically. Sound effects and score have good presence, and ambient activity is more frequent. The Italian audio is mostly mono in nature, but has definite spread for the score and random sound effects. It’s a thinner track with higher treble compared to the English tracks, but dialogue is a bit more natural-sounding.

The 3-Disc 4K Ultra HD release of The Church sits in a black Amaray case a 1080p Blu-ray and a CD soundtrack, along with an insert featuring the original Italian theatrical poster artwork (with The Church title attached) and a 40-page booklet containing the essay A Vision of the Future, a Rocket from the Crypt by Claire Donner, a CD track listing, and production credits. The initial release from the Severin Films website also came with an embossed, spot gloss slipcover. Also available is a 2-Disc option, minus the booklet, slipcover, and soundtrack. Extras included the following:


  • Italian Trailer (4K w/SDR – 2:05)


  • The Mystery of the Cathedrals (HD – 19:46)*
  • Alchemical Possession (HD – 12:41)*
  • The Eleventh Commandment (HD – 13:18)*
  • The Ghostwriter (HD – 18:36)*
  • Lotte (HD – 8:36)*
  • Here Comes the Bride (HD – 10:56)*
  • A Demon Named Evan (HD – 25:37)
  • Father Giovanni (HD – 14:14)
  • Monsters and Demons (HD – 19:41)*
  • Holy Ground (HD – 9:46)*
  • Building the Church (HD – 20:46)*
  • The Right-Hand Man (HD – 16:50)*
  • Return to the Land of the Demons (HD – 5:59)
  • Italian Trailer (HD – 2:05)
  • Easter Egg (Upscaled SD – 2:15)


  1. The Church (Main Theme) (3:58)
  2. La Chiesa (5:21)
  3. Prelude 24 (2:22)
  4. Possessione (3:16)
  5. The Possession (2:24)
  6. Lotte (3:03)
  7. Go to Hell (3:40)
  8. The Church Revisited (4:25)
  9. La Chiesa (Suite) (4:05)
  10. La Chiesa (Suspense 1) (3:44)
  11. La Chiesa (Suspense 2) (7:06)
  12. The Church (Single Mix – Bonus Track) (3:51)

* Italian with English Subtitles

These extras are primarily made up of new and slightly older interviews with director Michele Soavi, co-screenwriter/producer Dario Argento, co-screenwriters Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti, actresses Asia Argento and Antonella Vitale, actors Tomas Arana and Giovanni Lombardo Radice, make-up effects artists Sergio Stivaletti and Franco Casagni, set designer Antonello Geleng, assistant director Claudio Lattanzi, and author Alan Jones. Those involved with the production discuss their careers, working with Michele Soavi, and their memories of the making of the film, while Jones talks about the history of the project and Soavi’s direction. The trailer is presented in English with Italian titles. The Easter Egg can be found by pressing up when Father Giovanni is selected, which will reveal a VHS tape icon. Clicking it will play the Southgate Entertainment home video sales reel for the film. Not carried over from the Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray is an audio commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Barbara Cupisti, as well as an interview with Cupisti, and an alternate interview with Tomas Arana. Missing from the Shameless Entertainment Blu-ray is Cathedral of Fear, The Church, an interview from 2015 with Michele Soavi. Also not included are additional trailers and various still galleries from other releases.

In terms of Italian horror as a whole, The Church is not at the front of the pack, instead falling somewhere in the middle. It’s not quite a masterpiece, but it offers enough visual flair and horrific moments to make the experience worth it. The Severin Films UHD release offers a substantial upgrade in all categories, making it the finest release of the film currently available.

- Tim Salmons

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