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The Sect (1991)

Scorpion Releasing
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/27/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/14/2018

Someone (although it's up for debate who) once said, "The definition of insanity of is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Given that logic, why would one re-watch a movie that one didn't like upon the first viewing? Aren't there enough new movies out there that need to be watched to justify turning one's back on a film which failed you the first time? Maybe, although perhaps there was something which kept you from truly appreciating the movie on that initial viewing -- age, viewing conditions, mood, etc. Sometimes, movies simply aren't what you expected them to be and, knowing that, a second chance is worth while. Whatever the case, I decided to give The Sect a do-over.

Somewhere in suburban Germany, mild-mannered schoolteacher Miriam (Kelly Curtis) almost runs over an old man, Moebius (Herbert Lom), who is clutching a package. Seeing that the man is unhurt, and feeling bad for nearly striking him, Miriam decides to take him to her house, so that he can rest. Despite his rough appearance, his odd parcel, and the fact that he put some sort of brown liquid in his drink, Moebius seems a pleasant enough guest. But, while Miriam is out of the room, the old man ventures into her basement, where he uncovers an odd, well-like hole in the floor. This series of seemingly random events will have a significant impact on Miriam's life, as she will suddenly find herself surrounded by death and odd occurrences. Is she going mad, or are there forces acting against her?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Dario Argento and his cronies remade Rosemary's Baby, while adding a hefty dose of David Lynch to mix? No, I haven't either, but that's pretty much what we get with The Sect. The story, from a script by Argento, Director Michele Soavi, and Gianni Romoli, isn't a carbon copy of the classic Roman Polanski film (which was nearly a word-for-word adaptation of Ira Levin's novel), but it's pretty darn close. The innocent Miriam lives in a house which, unbeknownst to her, is cursed. A cult has sinister plans involving the spawn of Satan. People around Miriam begin to die in mysterious ways and no one will believe her wild story. Does this all sound familiar?

But, being an Italian film with Argento working behind the scenes, The Sect is, of course, it's own movie. By 1991, Argento had completely lost it, and it was up to his protege Michele Soavi to pick up the reins. Having made the underrated Stagefright and the overrated The Church, Soavi next turned his eye towards The Sect, and it's his careful approach which makes the movie watchable. The movie could have easily been over-the-top or far too subtle, but Soavi gives us just enough story to keep us interested, most notably in the way in which the doings in the basement are uncovered. Having said that, the pacing is a bit slack and at nearly two hours, the film is too long. Also, there are two scenes prior to Miriamís meeting with Moebius that truly donít contribute to the story at all. But, Soaviís strong suit has always been his visuals and heís able to fill the movie with enough interesting shots and unique touch to keep the viewer interested.

Italian horror movies arenít necessarily big business in the U.S., and The Sect is arguably one of the most obscure of the films under the Argento umbrella. Itís very easy to see how the movie could solely be remembered as a movie which stars Jamie Lee Curtisí sister. Therefore, Iím glad that Scorpion is giving the movie the Blu-ray treatment. I first saw The Sect back in 1991 when I was obsessed with foreign horror films, and I was very disappointed. Looking back, I think that the ďmeĒ of that time wanted a truly bonkers movie, as was the norm with Italian entries of the time. Seeing the movie again all these years later, I can now appreciate itís more deliberate tone. No, The Sect doesnít bring many new things to the genre, but itís a solid outing that offers enough twists and mild gore to satisfy horror fans.

The Sect has a woman on the cover who I don't think is in the movie on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Scorpion Releasing. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, although there is mild grain at times, but no notable defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, as the transfer offers deep blues and true reds. The picture is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is fine, as we can see the lines in Moebius' face and the doesn't have the flat look which can plague older movies. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We don't get any truly dynamic effects here, but the use of stereo is obvious at times, especially with sounds inside Miriam's house. The music (which is oddly placed at times), doesn't overpower the actors.

The Sect Blu-ray Disc contains only a couple of extra. We get an interview with actor Tomas Arana (29 minutes) (which is weird, as he's only in the movie for a few minutes) in which he discusses his participation in The Sect and his other work with Soavi. We next have an interview with Michele Soavi himself (20 minutes) where he discusses his history of working with Dario Argento and his specific approaches to The Sect. The extras are rounded out by an Italian trailer for The Sect.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long