(Michele Soavi, 1991)
We open on a group of hippies loving it up in the desert. From out of the distance a shaggy, Jesus-like figure stumbles in search of water. They invite him to stay for dinner, but don't live long enough to regret it as he and a group of erstwhile hidden bikers butcher them in their sleep.
(Present...well, 1991, anyway)
A former cult member is stalked and killed by a man who cuts out her heart. When discovered, he shoots himself in the head.
And NOW onto the story! Our protagonist, Miriam (Kelly Curtis), almost hits an old man with her car. He refuses to see a doctor, so she invites him to rest at her house. He carries a small parcel that seems terribly important to him, and has mysterious attacks that are alleviated only by dropping some brown fluid into his eye. After one such attack, he passes out. Miriam, obviously unconcerned for either of their safety, goes to bed after tucking him in.
In an unpleasant scene, the old man sneaks into Miriam's room and places on her face a grotesque water bug which crawls into her nose. She then has a rather bizarre nightmare in which her throat is pecked by a giant bird! The old man makes his way to the basement, uncovers and opens a well, and dies beside it. Before expiring, he covers his own face with a dirty rag which clings and forms a creepy death mask. While searching the body for identification, Miriam and her doctor friend discover that the old man had intended to come to her house all along. (End Act I)
Thus far the film, though a little slow, shows promise. It's no secret that there are some shadowy and familiar figures who have diabolical plans for Miriam, and that something is falling into place Rosemary's Baby-style. The rest of the film follows the unfolding of this plot with some rather clever references to previous scenes and characters. The story, written by Michele Soavi, Dario Argento, and Gianni Romoli, is a bit on the slow side and may be terribly confusing to those who don't pay extra attention to the details.
Those who DO pay attention will be rewarded by the subtle progressions in the imagery, and sly nods to Argento's Suspiria and Inferno, and even Alice In Wonderland! Soavi creates original and beautiful, yet sinister, pictures from start to end. The Sect is appropriately rife with religious images, from the appearance of the serpent and the breaking of bread by the hippie Christ-clone at the beginning, to the Shroud of Turin-like death mask, and even the theme of resurrection. Animals, most notably birds and rabbits, are also a recurring image, as are water and snow. I thought I smelled Dario's hand in this!
The Sect won't be for all horror fans. It has more in common with films like Rosemary's Baby, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, and Dario's Three Sisters trilogy than it does, say, Stagefright or Demons. That's not to say that it lacks blood or gruesome scenes, as it has plenty of both. Fans of slow-burners (like myself) would do well to track down a used copy or download it as it hasn't had an official DVD release outside of Europe. Seriously, check it out just to see the rabbit watching a magic show (starring Michele Soavi) on TV!
6 months ago