May 29, 2018  (Web Review)

The Sect

Scorpion, 117 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $24.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Aficionados of the gory Italian thrillers known as gialli will undoubtedly welcome the release of this little-known 1991 example from the genre’s acknowledged master Dario Argento, who produced and co-wrote the film, but left the direction to his protégé Michele Soavi. Departing from the usual formula in which a serial killer simply slashes his way through a succession of unsuspecting victims, the movie begins with a prologue in which a bunch of hippies cavorting in the desert are slaughtered by cultists led by a Manson-like weirdo (Tomas Arana). The focus then shifts to Germany where teacher Miriam (Kelly Curtis, sister of Halloween scream queen Jamie Lee) almost hits an old man (Herbert Lom) with her car and makes the mistake of taking him home to rest. He is an elder in the cult, and has received word of who is to bear Satan’s child, willingly or not. There are obvious echoes of Rosemary’s Baby here, but The Sect is filled with touches that point to Argento’s influence, such as an emphasis on insect imagery, sprays of blood across walls as people shoot themselves, and colorfully violent set pieces (a friend of Miriam’s is pulverized to death by a possessed truck driver). There are also bizarre, inexplicable sequences, including one in which a pet rabbit turns on a TV and surfs through the channels, and another in which Miriam is attacked by a giant bird-like creature with a huge beak. But while logic is in short supply, the movie boasts tons of atmosphere, and will appeal to giallo fans. Presented in a newly restored edition, extras include interviews with Soavi and Arana. Recommended. (F. Swietek)