The Sect (La Setta) (1991) (117 min)
Directed by Michele Soavi.
aka The Devil’s Daughter, Demons 4: The Sect
Written by Dario Argento, Gianni Romoli and Michele Soavi.
Starring Kelly Curtis, Herbert Lom and Mariangela Giordano.
Also known under the name The Devil’s Daughter, Michele Soavi’s The Sect (1991) is an intricately stitched, cult masterpiece; from a decade not well regarded for its genre output. Soavi himself had already cemented his career as a director of the macabre, with his feature length debut StageFright (1987) and Dèmoni sequel-turned-standalone horror The Church (1989).
Indeed, The Sect would also be branded a Dèmoni sequel upon its home video release, resulting in many referring to The Sect as Demons 4. But like The Church before it, The Sect is very much its own entity.
Miriam Kreisel (Kelly Curtis; sister of Jamie Lee Curtis) is an American schoolteacher living in Frankfurt, Germany. Her life is quite ordinary…or rather it was until an accidental encounter turned her life out of the ordinary. Narrowly avoided running down an elderly man (Herbert Lom) with her car, Miriam drives into a roadside ditch. Fortunately they are both unharmed, but the elderly man is visibly shaken.
Feeling she was responsible for the accident, Miriam offers to drive the elderly man to a hospital, but he refuses. Reluctantly, she then offers to drive him back to her home where he can rest. He agrees, but unbeknownst to Miriam is that their encounter was no accident at all… This man, Moebius Kelly, is the leader of a satanic sect, and they have plans for Miriam. For she, by design, has been chosen for a greater purpose.
Michele Soavi’s second collaboration with mentor Dario Argento is comprised of a trio of discarded outlines/scripts, resulting in an oft-kilter, supernatural horror that favours atmosphere over consistent direction; surrealism over narrative. The Sect doesn’t make much sense at first, but can be a rewarding experience for audiences who return to this world – created by Soavi, Argento and co-writer Gianni Romoli – on multiple occasions.
Comparisons to Roman Polanski’s acclaimed psychological horror Rosemary’s Baby (1968) are inevitable. Michele Soavi clearly implements a few Ira Levin-esque elements into The Sect and they work, but I have found that Soavi’s direction – the inventive ways in which he frames each sequence – and the many ideas he incorporates into the narrative are handled in a more esoteric way that is so…Argento-esque! This is not limited to The Sect, as Soavi has utilised this approach in both The Church and Dellamorte Dellamore; aka The Cemetery man.
Kelly Curtis’ inclusion in The Sect – her first starring role – is most welcome, but it is Herbert Lom’ (Mark of the Devil, A Shot in the Dark) eerie performance, along with Pino Donaggio’s score – particularly the main theme accompanied onscreen by the infamous face removal perpetrated by Giovanni Lombardo Radice – that brings gravitas to the already spellbinding material.
Shameless’ presentation of The Sect, just like Michele Soavi’s The Church before it, has been given the 2K transfer treatment (1:666!) – the most complete of any previous release – which really stands out in high definition. La Setta has never looked this good on home video. Along with the reversible sleeve (with newly commissioned artwork by Rick Melton) and signature yell’o Blu-ray case, The Sect includes two audio tracks; 2.0 PCM Stereo in English and 5.1 Surround in Italian, with English subtitles.
An interview with Michele Soavi entitled Beauty and Terror is also included, where Michele Soavi discusses his various relationships with other prolific Italian directors; i.e. Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Joe D’Amato, his regret at not accepting Tarantino’s offer to direct From Dusk till Dawn (1996) and the grisly demise of Maria Angela Giordano’s character being deemed too gruesome and cut from earlier releases. It is the perfect companion piece to the interview included in Shameless’ previous release of Soavi’s The Church.
“This man had an energy not human!” – Michele Soavi on Italian filmmaker Joe D’Amato.
The Sect never really received the acclaim it so rightly deserved, having only received a very limited release in the United States. It will require an open mind and a lot of patience to get through The Sect’s 112 minute running time, but the journey is one you may well find yourself returning to again and again. This is testament to the expressive, otherworldly style of Michele Soavi.
Michele Soavi’s The Sect is available now on both DVD and Blu-ray from Shameless Screen Entertainment. Release date: 27 December 2016