Another Nine Nights of Argento #4 – “La Setta, AKA The Devil’s Daughter” (1991)

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Here we go again! For my third annual Halloween trek through horror master Dario Argento‘s frightful filmography, I’m glopping through a gory grab bag of the Giallo madman’s screenplays, TV work, and other obscure treats.

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Rosemary’s Baby by way of the kooky Dario Argento farm system is the best way to describe Michele Soavi‘s La Setta, otherwise known as The SectThe Devil’s Daughter, or even Demons 4, despite not having any demons involved this time around. As in Roman Polanski‘s seminal horror classic, a mousy woman is unwittingly used by a Satanic cult to become the baby mama to the prince of darkness. Unlike Polanski’s restrained and quietly tense masterpiece, La Setta is firmly in “schlock pizza” territory.

When a beautiful woman (Kelly Curtis) almost runs over an aging Satanist with her car, she decides to take him home with her, despite the fact that he is clearly disturbed and appears to be carrying a strange package with the words EVIL BOX written on it in goat’s blood. That night, while she sleeps, the old man puts a weevil up her nose that somehow inseminates her with Satan’s seed, causing her to have a dream in which she is tied down and pecked to death by a giant stork. And then things get weird.

A manhole cover to hell is lifted, revealing a bottomless ocean of blue devil water. A wannabe Manson Family rips a woman’s face off and uses it to resurrect a dead guy. A motorcyclist catches on fire while trying to grab a baby and blows up real good. And perhaps most memorably, a fluffy rabbit turns evil and puts its thumper on a clicker to channel-surf through a primetime TV lineup that seems to consist entirely of programming aimed at Satanic animals.

As was the case with Soavi’s The Church, this is an overlong and mostly tone-deaf horror film that consists of long stretches of nothing happening, punctuated by moments of savage and bizarre acts of violence, which is pretty much co-writer Argento’s M.O. in a nutshell. Soavi throws as much surreal imagery at us as he can at us, either because he’s still under the impression that he’s an artiste above the likes of Argento and Lamberto Bava, or because he’s finally given in to the schlock pizza way of doing things. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

Next Up: THE WAX MASK (1997)

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features

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