There is an earnestness to low-budget horror that we often grant each film just on principle, with the final product determining how much they actually rely on our consideration over their actual content. However, some movies pass the realm of earnest spookiness, and even camp, and enter the outer worlds of the downright absurd. Dom Frank’s The Church wants to harken back to the gothic horror reminiscent of Hammer Films but delivers a project that is so hamfistedly hilarious and full of antiquated moralizing that it’s hard not to view the film as an unintentional parody (though it may only be a parody of itself).
“This plan involves picking off each one of the wicked people within its walls…”
Pastor James (Bill Moseley) is the minister of a landmark church in an entropic Philadelphia neighborhood. While he struggles to maintain his dwindling congregation, the disrepair and financial burdens of the building are driving his wife Loretta (Michelle Romano) and members of the church’s board to scheme to sell the building to Ronald Lawson (Ronald Lawson) and his permanently scowling tycoon father. But when a deal gets made and all the associated parties meet at the church to discuss the plans for the area, the church has a different plan for the evening. This plan involves picking off each one of the wicked people within its walls until pureness has been restored.
I immediately had flashbacks to Death Bed: The Bed That Eats when watching this furiously funny fiasco. It is a silly concept made all the more sillier by the hapless execution of the final product. Among the endless scenes of exposition typhoons and endlessly repeating dialogue, we are ceaselessly victims of stock music stingers, early Charmed-level fireball effects, reused cinematography, and aimless wandering that further highlights how nonexistent the direction is in this cinematic mess. Oh, and a solid fifteen minutes are spent on a character searching for tools to get the outer doors open, with him constantly not getting tools, until he grabs a crowbar for about five seconds before he’s swallowed by the church, making anything he was even remotely attempting completely moot.
“…a silly concept made all the more sillier by the hapless execution…”
As a matter of fact, there isn’t any plot or definable story to the whole film besides a vengeful church chewing on evil gentrifying developers and the congregation’s meddling traitors. Oh, I mentioned moralizing – it’s as subtle as the Rapture, and makes even less cohesive sense. As the cast beware the flickering lights and stock sound effects wrought by the titular building, we are ever reminded of why these people are being picked off and who will survive the night. It all comes together in an ending completely cribbed from The Devil’s Advocate (with a dash of Touched by an Angel), and it just doesn’t work. Nothing works, and everything clashes horribly with everything else – it’s a cinematic trainwreck of biblical proportions, a roller coaster of side-splitting laughter.
There isn’t much in the way of original content to recommend in this experience beyond the film’s obvious use as easy fodder. The earnestness in which The Church was made ensures its status as an endearing failure, though sadly not as much else.
The Church (2018) Directed by Dom Frank. Written by Dom Frank. Starring Clint Howard, Bill Moseley, Michelle Romano, Ronald Lawson, Ashley C. Williams.
3 out of 10