The Unholy is Ghost House Pictures’ latest chiller. With Jeffrey Dean Morgan taking the lead, the movie delves deeply into religion, but will it hit the mark?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (although a lot would know him as Walking Dead’s lovable villain, Neegan) steps into the shoes of Gerald Fenn; an old, disgraced has-been journalist. During a visit to an apparent holy branding of a cow (holy cow!), Fenn is disappointed to quickly put to bed any rumors of earthly holiness when he discovers the cow is, in fact, merely branded with an ‘M’ in the same font metallers, Metallica uses; the farmer’s son has been up to no good.
With a heavy heart, he is about to dismiss yet another story and licks the wounds that only wasted time can make, he comes across a mysterious doll. After smashing the creepy item in a bid to create a story from nothing, he releases a 150-year-old vengeful spirit on a small American town.
The Unholy Story
The Unholy was originally penned by one of the true masters of horror, James Herbert (The Shrine, 1983). The writer’s famous talent is evident throughout the entirety of The Unholy as he spins a story to excite, intrigue, and even question if the Second Coming would really be a good thing.
After the aforementioned events, our protagonist witnesses the local vicar’s deaf and mute daughter at the foot of a tree, speaking to an unseen presence. The miracle of the holy daughter’s newfound voice and ability to hear is explained to us when she announces to the church that she has been healed by the Virgin Mary. Furthermore, Alice Pagette (played by Cricket Brown), lays claim to frequent contact with the Holy Mother.
These miracles inevitably reach the newspapers and young Alice becomes a symbol of God, with followers all around the world; hanging on her every word and action. However, it is soon revealed that darker forces are at work in the small town of Banfield and threaten to corrupt the souls of mankind, using naïve Alice as a satanic conduit.
The Unholy Flaws
Despite well-written plot, The Unholy does, at times, let itself down with poor special effects and the occasional -unwanted- sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The entity that the movie relies on for its scares and suspense, conjured up little of either. The Unholy had all the potential to make the Unholy a true masterpiece of horror. Instead, it seems that studio Ghost House Pictures took a trip to a local amateur-dramatics group to borrow some costumes. While there’s a few scenes that could be classed as mildly scary, the majority of the creature’s appearances are somewhat comical; with a handful of scenes taking me back to watching Scooby-Doo cartoons as a small child.
It Leaves you Asking Questions
For me, this is one of the best qualities a movie can have; from any genre. If when the final credits are rolling, you are questioning the plausibility of what you have just seen and the adverse effect it would have on the world should it ever happen, the movie has done its job.
The very theme of the movie explores the power that religion has on us as a collective. With wars being fought and blood being shed in the name of a variety of different gods, the insurmountable proof of one god would leave billions questioning their very purpose in life. Chaos and mayhem would ensue all over the globe. The Unholy raises questions like this by offering us a “what if” insight into the damage it would cause.
The Unholy, while scarce of scares, is a thoroughly enjoyable journey into the questions that life relentlessly asks us. Regardless of your faith; or lack thereof, this movie will stir curiosities that will linger in the recesses of your mind for a long time after those final credits roll. The lack of any real scares is more than made up for in acting, story, and intrigue.
However, if you’re looking for something to chill you to the bone, I would look elsewhere. The poor visual effects in most of the ghost scenes leave a lot to be desired. With only a handful of shock moments, the movie tends to fall back on jump scares. For the story, however, The Unholy is well worth the 109 minutes of your time. Tackling such a taboo subject was brave but it certainly paid off in the end.