The Church Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Hard Floor Entertainment
Written and directed by Dom Frank
2018, 81 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on October 5th, 2018
Starring:Bill Moseley as Pastor Eric James
Clint Howard as Alexander James / The Spirit
Ashely C. Williams as Elizabeth Haines
Lisa Wilcox as Joan Laurels
Matthew Nadu as Ronald Lawson
Kenneth McGregor as Deacon Williams
“Big” Vito LoGrasso as Adrian Seltzer
It’s hard to know where to begin with a movie like Dom Frank’s The Church. Religious horror is extremely fertile ground, after all. Get it right and you could have a new The Exorcist (or at the very least, Red State) on your hands. Get it wrong and you have an unholy travesty of biblical proportions. While you won’t find it to be quite that bad, there’s still a travesty occurring on the screen.
Pastor Eric James (Bill Moseley; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Devil’s Rejects) leads a congregation at a historic Philadelphia church where his family has preached for generations. His numbers are dwindling, though, and the neighborhood is changing. A scummy local developer, Ronald Lawson (Matthew Nadu; Hallows Eve), is trying everything in the book to get the good pastor to sell and relocate. Bribes are handed out, and the deal is done. While completing the transaction at the church, all Hell (or is it?) breaks loose. The pastor, his board members, and the developer’s shady posse are trapped inside and menaced by an unseen force. Is it truly an evil spirit? Is it God protecting his house?
The premise and underlying debate of good or evil is a damn solid one and well-written and conceived overall. The thought process behind it is all there. The exterior cinematography is also excellent; Philadelphia is an outstanding location to shoot in. The church itself is an impressive location inside and out. Aesthetically and intellectually, The Church is a win in that regard.
The cast has some top-tier and recognizable genre names. Bill Moseley is a true talent and carries the scenes that he’s in with aplomb (as always). It’s worth the price of admission to see him playing a pious man. It’s just so damn trippy to watch, and he seems to be having a lot of subtle fun with it. Lisa Wilcox (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) gives a fine performance as one of the terrorized and judged inside the church in a role that, sadly, seems almost an afterthought. There’s a modestly well-known former pro wrestler in “Big” Vito LoGrasso. You even get Clint Howard (Evilspeak) in a ghostly role of vengeance! There’s star power to be had, for sure.
Unfortunately, that’s where the winning stops and it’s a shame to see real talent wasted in a lackluster production. The overall production value is clearly on the cheap. While that’s normally not a big deal (it is low-budget), the effect is unpleasant after the lovely aerial shots. It’s not a deal-breaker until you combine it with the atrocious visual effects. There’s a difference between low-budget and cheesy-looking, and The Church skates the line like it’s qualifying for the Olympics, becoming unintentionally comedic.
Also, there’s no real blood to be found…and what little you do see is done with bad CGI. I know it’s a religious movie and not going for the hard R, but this really didn’t feel like a horror film. The Church honestly feels like one of those Christian horror movies. It will leave you wanting one hell of a lot more…pun intended. Then they throw an ending at you that simply defies description. I won’t spoil it, but (like having Bill Moseley) it’s almost worth the price of admission just to have the reaction you’ll inevitably have.
The key word is almost.
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