A Movie A Day: THE VIDEO DEAD (1987)… No, wait. THE CHURCH (1989)
My God! What’s going on here?!?
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
There’s a very important tradition in film exploration, used by the brave men and women who slough through title after title, looking for a diamond amongst the coal. It’s called “Gonging.”
During certain films it becomes apparent from the very beginning that there’s no hope for it and it will be “gonged,” stopped early to save the eyes of the viewer and rescue the endangered hour and change of his or her life from being wasted on a turd.
Inspired by The Gong Show, in which a panel would observe an act or routine and would signal they’ve had enough by striking a gong, To Gong a movie is, in some ways, an admittance of defeat.
That is exactly what happened with me and The Video Dead. I couldn’t take anymore. I threw in the towel. I fired up my Instant Netflix on the ol’ Xbox 360 with the best of intentions, gave the film 20 minutes and gonged it. I gonged the fuck out of that movie.
Amateur hour all the way, make-up that would make even Uwe Boll shake his head in disapproval, canned sound, horrible photography… I couldn’t do it.
Luckily for me I was scanning through Netflix’s horror line-up for an article I’ll be running sometime before Halloween and I found Michele Soavi’s THE CHURCH, produced by Dario Argento and starring a very young Asia Argento.
So, I gonged The Video Dead and instead moved to:
I’m a huge, huge fan of the Argento produced and scripted Demons and Demons 2 directed by Lamberto Bava. Especially that first film about a demon possession epidemic in a movie theater. It’s killer.
The second film, set in an apartment building, isn’t as great, but I think it’s pretty damn good.
THE CHURCH is apparently Demons 3, but it’s different enough to garner it’s own title domestically. Of the three films, it is by the far the worst, but still a huge step up from The Video Dead.
Directed by Cemetery Man’s Michele Soavi, the film tells the story of a Church which rests upon one of the doorways of evil into this world. That’s not a particularly original idea, especially from Italian horror of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it usually leads to a lot of fun, so who cares?
The flick opens in medieval times (the period, not the fine dining establishment) as Christian soldiers find a cave with a bunch of people that have crosses carved into their feet and arms. The stigmata apparently means they are evil, so everybody is slaughtered. Hell, a Christian soldier and his horse fall in to the death pit at the end of the slaughter and they just cover his ass up, too.
I like how they know this is an evil area because there’s a rock with three 6s etched in it at the entrance.
Anyway, after they slaughter and bury these supposedly evil people they throw a giant-ass concrete crucifix on top of it, which seems to lock the demons below.
By the way, the only sign these people are anything but scared peasants is that after they’re slaughtered and thrown into a mass grave creepy demon hands pull in that Christian soldier and his horse down in with them. We only see them as terrified women and children.
Cut to modern day (ie late ‘80s) and we’re in a giant cathedral that we soon come to discover rests atop the mass grave and keeps the demons from rising.
This flick isn’t like the previous Demons movies where when people turn they become crazy monsters… well, they kinda do, but this one’s more psychological. Sometimes we see the infected as crazy goat-headed abominations, sometimes as people.
That’s one of my problems with the movie is there really aren’t any rules. Sometimes when a character sees an infected in a mirror they see their true form, sometimes they just see the character. The film plays fast and loose with any kind of real rules and as a result it feels kinda like just anything can happen, which isn’t nearly as effective.
Also unlike the other Demons films this one takes a long, long time to get going. We get to know the people in the Church, the strict old priest, the cute artist girl painting a fresco, the smooth young Black priest (who apparently is an archer in his spare time, something I was really hoping would pay off in the chaotic finale, but never did), a cleaner and his family, including a clueless wife and party girl daughter, a preteen Asia Argento.
When a guy comes in to catalogue the Cathedral’s massive library he becomes obsessed with an ancient parchment that claims a giant secret lies beneath the stone with seven eyes, somewhere in the church.
He gets it in his head that he could become a God if he finds this secret. Of course, that stone is built into the giant concrete crucifix down in the bowels of the church and is what’s keeping the demons at bay.
When the shit finally does start going down there’s a lot of promise. As a preventative measure the Cathedral has a lockdown mode and trapped inside are tourists (including an elderly couple with a grumpy husband and a wife who thinks ‘60s slang makes her sound cool), a middle school tour group and their young teacher, a pampered model and her crew on a photoshoot and our regulars.
There’s a lot of gold to be mined, especially with the kids in peril aspect, but what we get is kind of a scattershot effect. Too much is possible and most of it is just dropped, so it feels like a lot more interesting stuff is going on during the finale that we’re not seeing.
Now there are some great kills and some creepy images, like the Lust Mountain which is revealed, basically a giant pile of creatures and humans fucking in goo.
I was kind of hoping for more of a visceral experience than a cerebral experience. The hunter/prey aspect is touched upon, but kinda left alone for a more surreal experience, which didn’t fit with what I wanted out of the movie.
The acting, as far as I can tell, is fine although the dubbing is horrible. Good God did they get some bad voice actors for this movie. And I also hate it when they have an adult putting on a child’s voice, which is essentially just a high-pitched nasally sound. Maybe they did bring in kid actors for the voices of the children, but if so they were the fakest sounding kids ever.
Final Thoughts: While a mixed bag, there’s enough in here to like for a horror fan that it’s definitely a recommendation, especially since it’s easily found via Netflix Instant. Soavi isn’t as fun of a director as Lamberto Bava and this movie feels a bit Frankensteined from a few different thoughts and ideas leaving us with a film that has a lot of great moments, but isn’t a cohesive whole. If you want a totally kick-ass stuck-in-a-church horror movie stick with Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS.
Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: YES
Tuesday, October 19th: THE BLACK CAT (1981)
Wednesday, October 20th: THE BLACK CAT (1934)
Thursday, October 21st: THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963)
Friday, October 22nd: DOLLS (1987)
Saturday, October 23rd: SILENT SCREAM (1980)
Sunday, October 24th: SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)
Monday, October 25th: THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)
We move from Argento and Soavi to Lucio Fulci with tomorrow’s The Black Cat! I love me some Fulci! Can’t wait! See you then.
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Previous AMAD 2010’s:
- Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
- The Tenant (1976)
- Man in the Attic (1953)
- New Year’s Evil (1980)
- Prophecy (1979)
- The Other (1972)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- Mad Love (1935)
- Repulsion (1965)
Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 18, 2010, 9:50 p.m. CST
like that movie, fond memories of watching it from back in junior high
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:01 p.m. CST
Dude, I saw your boxcover for "The Video Dead" and immediately googled it. The description I read had me looking forward to reading your review of this movie for at least a week. Then we get here and you pull a bait and switch on us!?! WTF DUDE!?!?!?!?!? I WANTED TO READ ABOUT YOU RIPPING ON A MOVIE WHERE ZOMBIES POSSESS AN OLD TV AND USE IT AS A DOORWAY INTO OUR WORLD! I feel so... so used!!!!!
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:02 p.m. CST
I wanted Quint to taste shit, so I don't have to!
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:07 p.m. CST
Shit. I kind of feel like am imbecile now. I got drunk with a friend once and watched it, and we made it all the way through the thing.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:08 p.m. CST
"Death Bed: The Bed that Eats People." If I can read a review of this film by someone other than Patton Oswalt, it will be a Happy Halloween indeed.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:17 p.m. CST
by Harry Weinstein
MGMHD ran it for Halloween last year. It is ludicrous and amazing and it fits impeccably into a double feature with TROLL 2.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:24 p.m. CST
...and then post a column of it myself damn it.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:28 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:29 p.m. CST
I second the demand for this column to cover Death Bed: The Bed that Eats People. I'm going to be pushy about this. Make it happen, Quint. We'll all be on good terms about this gonging business if you make it through and write about Death Bed.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:34 p.m. CST
Video Dead forever.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:35 p.m. CST
Duuuuude!!! The Video Dead was the AMAD I was looking to the most from your upcoming list. Say it ain't soooo!!!
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:37 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
I saw it at a 24-hour film fest last year, and it was good, goofy fun.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:37 p.m. CST
Someone needs to watch these obscure pieces of shit. If we don't, who will?
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:38 p.m. CST
I too was looking forward to this review...haven't seen it. The Church is a mess, but there's some fun stuff in there.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:41 p.m. CST
to post their thoughts on Video Dead in this very talkback. We must finish what Quint started.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:51 p.m. CST
I watch movies like this on Netflix fairly often. I can't believe this movie cracked a writer on this site.
Oct. 18, 2010, 10:55 p.m. CST
Have it, people. I will say I've sat through worse, but I just couldn't sit there and take it this time out. Couldn't tell you why exactly... my eyes were glazing over, I wasn't going to be paying attention anyway, so I figured I'd watch something I could at least sit through.
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:01 p.m. CST
There's no turning back. Video Dead is revealing its charms. The hot lady next door lost her dog and said, "You don't understand. He likes to chase skunks in the woods. When he finds them, he tries to mate with them. Only, skunks don't like to mate with poodles. So, they spray him, and then he REALLY gets turned on." The sudden and serious transition to the woods after this line caused me to remind it and rewatch this golden scene.
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:09 p.m. CST
Well, I haven't confirmed that its all there, but it looks to be. The first 10 minute segment definitely works. So if people want to see if they can outlast Quint, there you go.
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:15 p.m. CST
At the 20 minute mark, apparently when Quint quit, the movie really becomes enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. It's also when the zombie/horror elements kick into full gear. The arm amputation scene is a winner. "You're acting really strange." "That's the way I am. I'm a strange person." So awesome.
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:22 p.m. CST
I had been trying to see this flick for years, and finally saw it this summer. What a disappointment. It wasn't like I expected a lot out of it either. A very ineptly made movie, even for 80s direct to video standards. I watched the whole thing though. I think you need to do a make-good on this one Quint...
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:24 p.m. CST
"Watch the movie that nearly ended Quint." I think the only other thing on the list is being banned.
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:25 p.m. CST
The Video Dead is hilarious!! How dare you gong it?? You want a movie that should be gonged? Platoon of the Dead. It's on streaming. I made it 5 minutes. Somebody beat me.
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:26 p.m. CST
In the past 5 minutes of watching this movie, there have been 3 uniquely different kills. I appreciate this when I think of all the recent "horror" movies in which every character is killed in almost the exact same way (ex. My Bloody Valentine 3D).
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:27 p.m. CST
And by beating me, I mean see if you can quit watching Platoon of the Dead earlier, not last longer. haha
Oct. 18, 2010, 11:34 p.m. CST
Oct. 19, 2010, 12:17 a.m. CST
Oct. 19, 2010, 12:48 a.m. CST
It is a stand alone film that has nothing to do with Demons1/2... Also if your an Argento fan, why would you want rules...? His movies are like nightmares without "rules", that is his style...
Oct. 19, 2010, 1:18 a.m. CST
I made it through the entire movie, but I couldn't really explain why. It was bad in every way.
Oct. 19, 2010, 1:46 a.m. CST
You saw nothing. I'm not saying it's gold, but damn it's not that bad... Always said it deserved the same praise/love Troll 2 got. Well this proves it. 20 minutes and you gave up. I say we start a mob that demands you watch ten minutes of it day and review those 10 minutes sessions as it own AHMADTNKM (A Horror movie a day that nearly killed me) until you finish it. Come on even you can give up 10 minutes a day, someone send Eric a tv with a mirror taped on it ASAP! <P> Granted i was all of 9-10 years old when I saw it, so I guess my ability to watch it is aided.
Oct. 19, 2010, 1:59 a.m. CST
Video Dead comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the Video Dead go away... but sometimes The Video Dead wouldn't go away. Sometimes that Video Dead, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a Video Dead... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The livingroom turns red, and despite all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and they... rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many Video Deads, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up, down in on the waterbed just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Slackjawed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us... he was a young Slackjaw, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat AHMAD comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened... waitin' for my turn. I'll never put in a DTV movie again. So, eleven hundred men went in the living room; 316 men come out and the Video Dead took the rest, Octe 1th, 2010, Anyyway, we delivered the HMAD. Share this quote
Oct. 19, 2010, 2:49 a.m. CST
I watched it years ago, because the cover of the VHS tape had this mass of bodies writhing in what looked like a blood covered orgy. <br /><br />I was never more disappointed in a movie.
Oct. 19, 2010, 3:04 a.m. CST
Fuck, did BAD BOYS bored the shit out of me. Couldn't stand it.
Oct. 19, 2010, 3:58 a.m. CST
True story. The trailer was on the VHS for Hellraiser 3. It was fucking disgusting...That is all.
Oct. 19, 2010, 4:13 a.m. CST
I remember they used to show "The Video Dead" on USA all the time back in the day and I always ended up watching it. Like one of the other talkbackers said, it's definitely in the same league as "Troll 2", it's so bad that it's laughable. You really can't go wrong with an undead woman emerging from a tv set to seduce a teenage boy or a transient zombie killer who calls himself 'the Garbageman'.
Oct. 19, 2010, 5:31 a.m. CST
Look it up, Quint
Oct. 19, 2010, 5:53 a.m. CST
Oct. 19, 2010, 7:26 a.m. CST
Yes, it is true even for Italian films, in Italian, there is often an adult dubbing the children’s voices, usually some 50 year old woman who has been doing child voices for 30 years. Did you know that Italian films up until very recently, never recorded the audio on set? All the audio was recorded in post production. Go and look at Sergio Leone films, you will see the same dubbing problems in the Italian version that plague the English language version, mainly, lip sync and no environmental sound on the voice track. (so it sounds like the microphone is too close to the actors mouth) Why? Many "Italian" films way back in post war Europe were actually European co-productions, using actors and crew from different countries. This is especially true of lower budget movies, as there was a considerable cost and time saving by not recording on set. It was inevitable then that some lead actors would also be non Italian speakers. So in post production they would record the voice actors from each of the funding countries and that version would be shipped to each different country. What’s unique about Italian dubbing? Italy is one of the last remaining European countries which continues to dub EVERY SINGLE CINEMA RELEASE!!! There are generations of Italians who don’t know the sound of great voices like, Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood and Reese Witherspoon ;) Dubbing has become and industry in Italy and it is firmly established. Some dubbing actors have become famous for their dubbing skills...unfortunately you need a good grasp on Italian to appreciate this. So what is to be done? Nothing. Dubbing is a reality in the Italian industry, although it I think the worst is behind us. Let’s just enjoy those awful child voices for what they are, TRASH! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z0I28i0aYc Liminal http://www.myspace.com/liminalsounds http://soundcloud.com/liminalsounds
Oct. 19, 2010, 7:42 a.m. CST
Okay, I've seen total f-ups too that I had to nuke. How about getting someone else to guest-review Video Dead, then? Someone mentioned Patton Oswalt... it'd be awesome if you could arrange a reunion review by Neil Cumpston, for old times sake.
Oct. 19, 2010, 7:45 a.m. CST
...Yeah, they used to always do that in those old Welch's Grape Juice commercials. Always creeped me out. It's like the Children of the Damned hawking grape juice. (Shudder)
Oct. 19, 2010, 7:47 a.m. CST
just watched it- the kid is the worst actor I've ever seen, I'm serious.
Oct. 19, 2010, 8:06 a.m. CST
Because "video" has nothing to do with VHS.
Oct. 19, 2010, 8:29 a.m. CST
While I, too, love Bava/Argento's Demons, Demons 2 is too hokey/jokey and a victim of Argento style Nightmare logic. The Church, meanwhile, is a thoroughly absorbing and atmospheric minor masterpiece. Yes, it's style over substance, but it's high style, indeed, and Soavi, who was once considered the heir apparent to the Italian horror cinema throne, delivers a creepy and effective bit of theological horror here on what amounts to a shoestring budget. This is one of my favorite Italian films of the 80s and, in my opinion, a much better film than its predecessors. Still, kudos for you for digging this one up for the AICN masses.
Oct. 19, 2010, 8:41 a.m. CST
Isn't this the first one you quit on? TheJudger is right...you should review the movie in its entirety 10 minutes at a time as penance.
Oct. 19, 2010, 8:50 a.m. CST
Couldn't quite place it. The worst instance of kid dubbing in my mind is in "A Time To Kill", when McConneghey's kid asks when they'll see him again. S/he sounds like Scarlett O'Hara.
Oct. 19, 2010, 9:15 a.m. CST
...but I've actually watched it twice and have it in my collection. the only movie I've ever gonged was Splash Too, which was so painful after the first five minutes that I've never yet fully recovered. That was back in the late 80s I think. I may have to try again, come to think of it, considering all the horrible shit I've subjected myself to since then.
Oct. 19, 2010, 9:53 a.m. CST
I'd like to see if that movie holds up at all - all I really remember about it is the pool scene (with the invisible layer holding the woman under water). It freaked me out as a kid.
Oct. 19, 2010, 9:58 a.m. CST
Dude, I gonged the shit out of that movie too! I tried to watch it earlier this year. I was all, "Hmm...a Bay movie I've never seen, can't be all that bad...Will Smith..." and it proceded to suck 3 years of life out of my soul. God, it's awful. That said, I have to put another check in the 'I was looking forward to this review' column. Get some buddies, and try again. It's awful, but you can have some fun with it. I promise.
Oct. 19, 2010, 10:09 a.m. CST
I was really looking forward to your review of The Video Dead. It's not a great movie, not even a good movie, but I have fond memories of watching this on VHS back in the day. Certainly not worth "gonging!"
Oct. 19, 2010, 11:32 a.m. CST
just like the horror show isnt house 3...it was just used to sell the movie..
Oct. 19, 2010, 11:35 a.m. CST
Hey Quint, Something you'd probably like. Mark Gatiss (of League Of Gentlemen and contributing writer to both the recent series of Dr Who & the BBC Sherlock Holmes) has a great little documentary series on BBC4 called A History Of Horror. If you can find it on-line somewhere it's definitely worth your time. This week he covered the glory days of Hammer and early Corman including some brilliant interviews with the remaining major players. Enjoy and let us know what you think if you track it down.
Oct. 19, 2010, 12:14 p.m. CST
Dubbing of foreign movies is obligatory by law,in many european countries like Germany,France,Italy etc.,because of the fear (justified i might say) that their native language will be degraded and finally substituted by the prominent english language.<br /> <p>Thank god here in Greece,there is no such law but we face another problem: the subtitle translation of the foreign films is controlled for decades by a select few professional translators,which not only some of them do a very bad job with the translations but they dont allow new people to work in the translation business.anyway.<br />
Oct. 19, 2010, 12:28 p.m. CST
by Hugh Jarse
i watched that too and it was excellent, can`t wait till next weeks
Oct. 19, 2010, 2:30 p.m. CST
...and it's not very good - BUT - I did watch all of it. Believe me, there are far worse films out there, such as 'Autumn', which I could NOT watch the whole way through, mainly because it looks like it was shot with a cell phone camera.
Oct. 19, 2010, 2:40 p.m. CST
There is now way in HELL that PRINCE OF NUMBNESS is even equal to THE CHURCH in visuals alone, much less execution. <p> While I like the ideas that are in POD, the execution stinks. I mean, are we REALLY supposed to be scared of a big tube of green goo? Sure, you have the cool mirror scene (and the argento slow-mo knife scene earlier), but overall it is pretty damn boring. Pretty much the end of Carpenter as far as I'm concerned.
Oct. 19, 2010, 2:57 p.m. CST
Gonging is never acceptable, and you sir, are a coward
Oct. 19, 2010, 3:21 p.m. CST
I missed the first one unfortunately which I'm sure was full of Legosi goodness. Interesting to see which gems he picks out of the 70's. He seems to have pretty decent taste. I might have to try and seek out "Blood On Satan's Claw". Appears to make the Wicker Man look like Midsomer Murders.
Oct. 19, 2010, 4:36 p.m. CST
You should end this now.. seriously.. you don't get to "gong". You are obligated to watch these films in theyre mediocre fullness no matter what. I don't care how bad you think it is.. Video Dead has some cool shit in it and ertertaining 80's cheeze. What a wuss.
Oct. 19, 2010, 4:37 p.m. CST
Oct. 19, 2010, 10:54 p.m. CST
..Cinemasochism. That means no matter how terrible the film, you're going to make it to the end and you're going to rip that fucker a new asshole as you do. Weak-nut.
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