If you not only drive the hobo you almost ran over back to your house for some R&R, but also allow him to spend the night, you really have no one but yourself to blame when he sneaks into your bedroom and inserts a giant bug up your nose.
It’s one of the many lessons that hapless rabbit-obsessed schoolteacher Miriam learns in Michele Soavi’s confusing hodge podge of arty scenes (there’s a dream sequence that not only features Miriam encountering a naked man tied to a tree, but finds her body seemingly stretched out to like a hundred feet) mixed in with the usual head scratching Italian horror visuals (a woman has her faced ripped off and then placed on the hobo’s face where it seems to work just fine while another attacks Miriam and cuts her own throat in a hospital after being declared dead).
The film is yet another version of devil-worshiping douchebags doing whatever is necessary to bring about the birth of the Antichrist. They don’t seem to be terribly effective or act like they even know what they are doing half the time, content to let things unfold so slowly as to make you think their plan is simply to lull everyone involved into a bored, highly susceptible stupor.
It all begins back in California in 1970. There’s hippies having a camp out, doing hippie things like dressing weird, painting each other’s boobs and letting their toddler wander off in the desert to piss right next to a scary-looking snake. Devil dudes show up, quote the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil” and before you know it all the hippies find themselves freshly tenderized and sacrificed.
Flash forward to Frankfurt, Germany in 1991 and it finds itself in the grip of a good old-fashioned satanic panic according to local news reports. Just today, another gal had her heart ripped out by a person who was by all accounts a normal family man. But no one will be able to ask him why because he commits suicide as he is being arrested.
Miriam lives in a old country house, apparently far away from this drama (except for the doorway to hell located in the hidden subbasement common to many European homes of the era), but what she doesn’t know is that the smelly old bum who just died in that basement she didn’t even know she had is really in charge of the local Satan Fan Club.
Following his supposed death, things go further down hill for both Miriam and the viewer as both are subjected to a slow-moving barrage of disconnected incidents that more often then not prompt chuckles rather than either being scary or feel like a necessary part of any story you can follow. How can you not watch a giant bird peck and eat all these mealworms out of Miriam’s neck while simultaneously humping her and not wonder if director Soavi is just trolling everyone to see what goofy scene he can get away with pretending that it actually means anything?
For most of the movie it isn’t clear what is going on until the hobo appears with his devil gang and spells out for Miriam (and the audience) that she’s going to be bearing Satan’s spawn. But why did it necessitate a prologue 21 years before, all sorts of random activities (Miriam and a friend prowling around the morgue looking for the hobo’s body, another friend being attacked by the hobo’s dirty rag and turning into a crazed weirdo who hangs out at truck stops), and an almost two hour running time that devotes an inordinate amount of it detailing the antics of Miriam’s pet rabbit?
In all fairness to the rabbit, he was the best character in the movie, always keeping the audience engaged whenever onscreen doing something memorable, whether it was sitting on top of the dead hobo’s body just chilling or working the remote control trying to find something good to watch on TV. If being a devil worshiper means I can finally relax while my pet flips through the channels for me until we something interesting on, where do I get the sign up forms?
The pacing issues the movie suffers from really become apparent in the final act where everything is too rushed to really be effective. You would expect Miriam’s pregnancy and giving birth to the Antichrist would be a big deal, but it’s over pretty fast with little in the way of drama (and by then most people will have long since lost interest anyway) until she decides to steal her baby back. But even that’s wrapped up in a few minutes and in a fashion that is unsatisfying since it requires a character to behave in a way completely antithetical to everything he had been doing up until that point.
The Sect is really a spiritual sequel to Soavi’s earlier The Church. In both films, he favors a focus on a style and imagery that calls to mind not an effective horror movie so much as the cheesy music videos of the era that far outweighs any desire to tell a story that is either understandable or interesting. The Sect in particular feels like a list of visual sequences the director wanted to shoot rather than being the result of the story requiring any of them.
The only real difference between watching the two is that The Church was fifteen minutes shorter and featured a young Asia Argento instead of a horny crane and TV-addicted rabbit. Chalk up yet another win for Satan (and Soavi) against unsuspecting viewers.
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