The Sect (1991)

A scattershot and scatterbrained Italian shocker that is massively improved by deft direction courtesy of Michele Soavi. A filmmaker of layered images, Soavi constantly throws in details to make his shots pop that little bit louder. In his movies you notice and appreciate something as simple as blossom floating in the air or the constant clashing of fire and the flesh. As with all his movies, Soavi proves to be a gifted scrapbooker of nightmare fuel.

The Sect opens with a 70s-set prologue involving a Manson-esque satanic cult, contains various references to the Rolling Stones and even finds room for a channel surfing bunny rabbit (no, really). There’s all sorts of nonsense happening in this stewing pot but it eventually boils into a satisfyingly haywire finale. Seeing a woman have her face peeled off by hooks, Hellraiser-style, and then that face then being stretched over a corpse’s head sure aint something I’m going to forget any time soon. There are also a bunch of scenes featuring giant birds pecking and raping people as well as Herbert Lom chewing up the scenery as if it were a generous slab of rare steak. It’s probably my least favourite Soavi film I’ve seen but only because it’s so hectic and un-focused. He definitely works best with 90 minute run-times. Still, he remains the best Argento disciple by a long shot.

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