Classics

[Movie Review] La Setta/ The Sect (1991) ★★★★☆

Miriam with a blue ribbon on her wrist in The Sect 1991

The Sect deceives and seduces in a surreal devilish way.


The Sect/La Setta also known as The Devil’s Daughter is an Italian supernatural occult horror and a child of the nineties. With a little nod to the satanic cult films from the seventies, this is a surreal spellbinding occult horror film with a strong fantasy vibe. It is mysterious, it has some surreal scenes, creepy rituals and a structure that has a typical nineties feel, increased by the synthesizer music does.

When trying to follow the storyline in an all too literal way, it can feel somewhat incoherent, but if you don’t overthink it and stick to the overall story it’s a nineties gem that proves that the nineties horror era wasn’t so bad, if you know where to look.


Plot

The story begins in 1970 when some hippies invite a stranger in, who happened to be a member of a satanic cult and kills them all. Twenty years later a girl is being murdered by a man who claims to be forced to do so and kills himself. Then we see an old man packing up his things, saying it’s time and leaves home. 

Only after all of this we get introduced to Miriam Kreisl who nearly runs over the old man called Moebius Kelly and decides to take him to her home. But then strange things start to happen. Moebius is not an old innocent man and the basement hides a terrible secret. Miriam is destined to play a big part in the events that follow.


Why you should watch it

The nineties are not the greatest decade for horror film, but if you look very carefully there are some real gems out there. This Italian film, written by Dario Argento has both a typical Italian Gothic Giallo style, full with surreal events which feels like a dreamlike fantasy horror, and a nineties style, with the synthesizer music, with the harsh shrill hollow sound effects.

With the emphasis on the fantasy vibe, a lot of crazy stuff is going on, while letting go the gore and practical effects of the eighties and reviving the surreal seventies style. It has the same feel as Nightbreed (1990) or Candyman (1992). The story can feel a bit illogical, incoherent, but explains itself, and some crazy stuff is just there for the effect, but works very well. Just like the seventies or eighties had its own discernible style, so do the nineties. And this is a great example. 

It has a dark sinister atmosphere on which it focuses rather than on a lot of gore. The tone is weird and dark as well and it has a rather gruesome vile scene near the ending. Although it is very visceral in nature, the end has some gore and some uncomfortable scenes, that are very diabolical and add some terrifyingly evil to the story. It all feels very doom-like, an inescapable fate that will befall Miriam and we only get to watch her gruesome fate being carried out. 

The film is greatly shot and it fits right in with the style of both Dario Argento and Michele Soavi. It’s a very original occult film that has a fresh take on satanic cults and certainly will surprise and shock you. Although it has a great dreamlike or nightmarish style, the story might feel somewhat incoherent, but doesn’t get overruled by the luscious style. It’s the mystery of what is going on, that is mesmerizing and lures you in just like it does with Miriam. 

The film is packed with all kinds of weird things bumping in the night, and an evil rabbit is just one of them. There’s creepy blue stuff from a deep creepy well in the mysterious basement, bugs of course, surreal dreams, a devil portrayed by a marabou, an ominous cult, violent stabbing, dead bodies coming back to life, a handkerchief turning into a shroud, a creepy ritual taking place in the moonlight with horrifying hooks who take off a face and place it on someone else, and of course fire. No good nineties horror without madness, surreal things, and fire. 


My favorite part

Not in any way a logical scene, it’s actually quite inexplicable why its even there, but Rabbit is an evil bunny indeed. Never trust a white rabbit, you know where it led Alice and Miriam is no better off. He is cute and fuzzy but has a nasty bite. But he can do what no other bunny can do, he can surf the tv channels! He watches tv when left alone and surfs through the channels looking for something interesting to watch. Why? No clue. But it’s hilarious. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Surreal factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆


Cast and crew

The Sect/ The Devil’s Daughter is directed and written by Michele Soavi and cowritten by Dario Argento and Gianni Romoli. It stars Kelly Curtis (Miriam), Herbert Lom (Moebius), Mariangela Giodano (Kathryn), Michel Hans Adatte (Franz).

Duration: 116 min. Music by: Pino Donaggio. Cinematography: Raffaele Mertes. Edited by: Franco Fraticelli. Produced by: Dario Argento.


Check the trailer below