Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Sect (Michele Soavi, 1991)

It's all Soavi, all the time, and I'm lovin' it. You could say that my brain is now officially a citizen of the U.S.S.R. Get it? My cranial allegiances are now squarely with the United Soavi Socialists Republics. Wow. You noticed that the name, "Soavi," the surname of the writer-director of The Sect, the latest mind-scrambler from Michele Soavi (Stage Fright), sort of sounded like "Soviet," and you somehow manged to tie them together. Very clever. No, seriously. I'm impressed. It's not everyday you come across someone who is openly willing to point out the similarities between "Soavi" and "Soviet." But here you are, doing exactly that. I must say, I commend your dedication to your craft. Okay, that's enough praise for one day. Let's focus our attention on The Sect, shall we? Word on the street says that it's got mischievous bunny rabbits and surprisingly chic grey blazers that were both, get this, purchased on a German teacher's salary. Oh, yeah, there's a movie to write about, and a delightfully fucked up one at that. First things first, was it wrong to feel gladness in my tum tum when a bunch of hippies are murdered by a gang of devil worshipers in the California desert in the early 1970s? Really? So, you're saying that's the correct thing to feel. That's a relief. I mean, here I was, feeling guilty about being all glad and junk that an entire commune of hippies, including their annoying children, were sacrificially slaughtered by the aforementioned Satanists. But it turns out, it's completely natural to want hippies to be murdered. What about bunny rabbits, is it okay to want them to die as well? That's a little more tricky. You see, humans care more about animals than they do people, so you better careful. Besides, bunny rabbits bring joy to millions, while everyone hates hippies. Just kidding about the over the top hippie animosity. In reality, I'm indifferent to their earth tone promoting, headband-friendly lifestyle.
I did, however, wind up developing an intense dislike for the hippies that appear in the opening scene of The Sect. I don't know, there was something about the way they implemented their hippie-centric point-of-view that rubbed me the wrong way. Taking the living on the land thing to whole new level of obnoxiousness, the hippies communing with nature in this flick are visited by a hirsute Rolling Stones fan. Reciting the lyrics to "Sympathy For The Devil" (I heard the Laibach version first, so I view it more as a Laibach song), Damon (Tomas Arana), a Christ-like stranger wanders into their patchouli-drenched fold. The fact that Damon doesn't seem visibly irked by the hippie woman who insisted on guessing the name of the Stones' song he was reciting in a menacing spoken word fashion was odd because I desperately wanted to tell her to shut her gaping pie hole.
Don't worry her pie hole won't tasting any pies where she's going. Wait a minute. That doesn't make a lick of sense. What I think you meant to say was: Her pie hole has tasted its last pie, as Damon and his bike-riding, devil worshiping friends slaughter them without mercy (some have their faces ripped clean off and tossed in a nearby  campfire). Yep, I'm afraid, on top of pies, these hippies have painted their last boob, destroyed their last clock (time is an artificial construct, man), as they all fall victim to a, and I quote, "blood thirsty demonic sect."
Flash-forward to 1991, Frankfurt, Germany, where a nondescript woman is window shopping one moment, and the next she's being stabbed to death by Giovanni Lombardo Radice; isn't it weird how these things happen? Anyway, caught carrying her heart on the subway (a pickpocket inadvertently tries to steal it), Giovanni flees the train only to end up cornered by police. Realizing that he's got nowhere to go, Giovanni shoots himself with one of the policeman's guns.
Meanwhile, in another, less gruesome part of town, a mysterious old man (Herbert Lom) is preparing for a trip. It would seem that he's not coming back, as he let's his canary out of its cage and mumbles to himself: "It is time at last. It is time." Time for what, I don't know. But you know it's going to involve some seriously weird shit. Seemingly oblivious to the news reports blasting from a portable television being watched by the other passengers pertaining to the recent slaying, a slaying that's been connected to a series of killings that revolve around the aforementioned blood thirsty demonic sect, the old man, clutching a package, rides the bus with a purposeful placidity.
"Don't touch my package!" He screams at his fellow bus riders as they attempt to help him when he starts to convulse. I'm no detective, but I think there's something important in that package of his. Either way, after putting in some strange eye drops, the old man seems fine. At a rest stop, the other passengers are getting snacks and relieving themselves. But not the old man. No, he's standing in the middle of the road. He seems to be waiting for someone. But who? Who could he be waiting for at a random rest stop? As expected, the old man is nearly run down by a woman wearing a grey suit.
Now lying in the middle of the road, the old man eventually opens his eyes only to find that there are a bunch of people standing around him. Feeling terrible about what happened, Miriam Kreisl (Kelly Curtis), the woman driving the car that almost hit him, offers to take him to her house to rest. That's right, Miriam, an attractive woman who rocks a grey pencil skirt with a matching jacket like nobody's business, just offered to take a dishevelled old man carrying a strange package home with her.
I don't think this is a good idea, Miriam. What? You don't care. Fine, don't listen to me. But don't come crying to me if you wake up with mealworms coming out of your ears.
We get a great shot of Miriam's grey suit as she's making tea in the kitchen. What the fuck? You're making tea for him?!? Are you blind? He's up to no good. Look at him!
Despite my objections, Miriam welcomes the old man into her home, which, get this, he says is very familiar. You see, right there. That's a definite red flag. Very familiar my ass. Introducing him to her nameless bunny, a bunny that will be surprisingly integral to the film's plot later on, Miriam and the old man relax in the living room to discuss life and the Rolling Stones. Hold on. Isn't that the same band the guy from the 1970s...I'm way ahead of you.
Holy crap! She's letting him spend the night. I'm surprised she didn't let him sleep in her bed. What's this? The old man is opening his package. This can't be good. Okay, he's now walking upstairs. Again, nothing good can come from this. Standing over Miriam, who's snug as a bug, the old man starts to fiddle with something. It's funny you should say, "snug as a bug," because the old man is putting a live insect on her face. Oh, look. The insect just crawled up Miriam's nose.
As the insect makes its way through Miriam's nasal cavity, we're zapped into her subconscious. Containing a lush field covered with red flowers, Miriam's brain might seem like paradise. But lurking underneath all that berenyian lushness lies something sinister. While Miriam was doing the whole exploring her dream realm in a nightgown thing (watch out, that giant bird wants to peck your neck), it suddenly dawned on me that Kelly Curtis has an electrifying screen presence. And, get this, she spends most of the movie in a drab grey suit. I would definitely put Kelly Curtis' performance in The Sect in the same category as Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby and Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion in terms of frazzled white women in peril.
After the old man opens a secret door in Miriam's basement (a door Miriam had no idea existed), the film's surreal plot starts to thicken. A young doctor named Frank (Michel Adatte) and Miriam's friend Kathryn (Mariangela Giordano from Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror), a fellow teacher, are soon added to the mix. And just in time, as Miriam needs all the help she can get in order to maintain her sanity. A demonic wash cloth with a mind of its own is turning people into raving lunatics, Miriam's water has blue slime in it (check out the "pipe cam" scene, as we follow the bluish water to the tap), pesky Asian women who randomly show up in her German basement (Coming this Fall to FOX: There's an Asian Woman in My German Basement - starring Brenda Song and Franke Potente), and her pet bunny watches television (and I don't mean it simply stares at the television, it uses the remote to change the channels and everything).   
You know for sure that things are about to go off the rails when Carla Cassola shows up as Dr. Pernath, an understatedly leggy surgeon/Satanist who sort of looked like an Italian version of Helen Mirran. I don't know, there was something about her that practically screamed cult member. Sure, she's got a wrist tattoo to prove she's in league with Satan, but her greyish bob hairstyle and affinity for white nylons were dead giveaways as far as I'm concerned.
I loved the face ripping hooks, the giant stork, the necessary close-up of Miriam's nylon encased feet, the creepy well in Miriam's German basement (you know, the one that is replete with Asian ladies), the morgue scene, and the shot of Kelly Curtis' climbing out of a wrecked car in a torn nightie. I love them all. But what I don't understand is, why do the sect members seem shocked, especially the old man, when Miriam doesn't act enthusiastic when it comes time to ask her to join their demonic club. You can't expect a grown woman, one who has a sweet teaching gig that allows her to wear grey suits on a daily basis, to suddenly fall head over heels for Satan. It doesn't make any sense. I mean, you would think they'd have planned a little better. After all, they've had thousands of years to prepare. But that's just a minor quibble. In the grand scheme of things, The Sect is yet another awesome helping of Italian made crazy, one that repeatedly fingered my sweet spot.

video uploaded by blaggermouth


  1. I've loved this movie from the very first frame.

  2. If memory serves me correctly, and it usually doesn't, the first frame of The Sect contains a hippie woman painting one of the boobies attached to the body of a fellow hippie. ;)

  3. I haven't seen this one, either.

    But speaking of hippies and Satan and the desert and everything, Yum-yum, have you ever listened to any MIGHTY SPHINCTER? Amazing acid soaked death rock band from Phoenix, Arizona:

    The reason is that Satanists murdering hippies in the desert always reminds me of their album "New Manson Family":

    Its on my blog if you want to check it out.

  4. No, I haven't. But now that I have. I think it's safe to say the video for "Ghost Walking" is one of the most goth things ever created. :D

  5. They don't have much recorded output and were pretty tongue-in-cheak (both of 'em) early on. But were so musically proficient and wrote such good songs, they blew other bands away. And yes, "Ghost Walking", both the video imagery and song's music, are so totally and utterly gothic to insane degrees that it makes me sexually and existentially aroused.

    HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Thanks for pointing me in the general direction of Mighty Sphincter. I don't follow "acid soaked death rock," but I like to pretend I do. ;)

    Happy Halloween, ido.