‘The Unholy’ Fails to Deliver Any Real Scares

‘The Unholy’ asks the question, “What if the devil was also capable of performing miracles?”

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‘The Unholy’ follows the story of disgraced journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who, while covering a story in Banfield, Massachusetts, comes across a previously deaf-mute girl named Alice Pagett (Cricket Brown) who claims that she was visited by the Virgin Mary and was gifted with the ability to hear and speak as reward for her faith.

Hoping to restore his name, Fenn stays in town and continues to investigate the story, as Alice is suddenly bestowed with the ability to heal the sick.

News of Alice and her abilities soon attracts the attention of the church, who send Delgrade (Diogo Morgado), aided by Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes), to investigate these supposed “miracles.”

As the investigation unfolds, dark secrets soon come to light about the origins of Alice’s newfound gifts. Could this really be the work of the Virgin Mary or is it the devil in disguise?

‘The Unholy’ tries to differentiate itself from other horror films with a religious plot in that it doesn’t just involve demonic possession. Instead, it attempts to have the audience question if the miracles we see are really an act of God, or the work of the devil?

This concept could have made the film stand out: keep the audience guessing who Mary really is till the end. Instead it’s revealed quite early into its runtime that the source behind the miracles is more sinister than saintly.

Divulging this piece of information so early resulted in ‘The Unholy’ being unable to build up any level of suspense. So now we’re left with a horror movie about a demonic entity stalking our protagonists as they attempt to uncover the truth. The only problem is, for a movie that is attempting to establish itself as a horror movie, there are very few elements of horror, except for the odd jump scare.

'The Unholy'

The spectral image of Mary far too much resembled a CGI monster to actually elicit any fear in the audience. The film would have benefitted heavily if it would have relied more on practical effects. The scene in the confessional with Father Hagan (William Sadler) and Mary was, by far, the best scene in the entire movie, and all we heard was her voice. It’s what you don’t see that can oftentimes be scarier than what you get on film.

Also, not to take anything away from Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance in the film, but he is cast in a role that establishes his character as an individual of questionable morals who ultimately has to have a “hero” defining moment when he makes a great sacrifice in the end.

The issue is that Morgan’s likable persona makes it impossible to believe that Fenn is a morally corrupt character, so the sacrifice at the end of the movie loses its intended impact.   

The highlight of the film came in the performance delivered by Cricket Brown as Alice Pagett. She gave a wonderful performance as Mary’s unknowing pawn. She played the role with such innocence that she made you believe her character was naïve enough not to see Mary’s true intentions.  

‘The Unholy’ had so much potential, but its decision to reveal the twist too early in the movie and its lack of horror made the film drag and, at times, feel boring.

On a scale of 1-5 stars, I gave ‘The Unholy’ 3 stars.

Horror films with a religious plot can oftentimes have trouble finding success. ‘The Unholy,’ regrettably, is unable to do anything with the tools it was given. Not every film can be the next ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘The Omen.’

‘The Unholy’ is directed and written for the screen by Evan Spiliotopoulos and stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Gerald Fenn, Cricket Brown as Alice Pagett, William Sadler as Father William Hagan, Katie Aselton as Natalie Gates, Cary Elwes as Bishop Gyles, Diogo Morgado as Monsignor Delgarde, Bates Wilder as Geary, Christine Adams as Monica Slade, Dustin Tucker as Dan Walsh, Gisela Chipe as Sophia Walsh, Danny and Sonny Corbo as Toby Walsh, and Marina Mazepa as Mary of Elnor.

Visit IMDB to learn more about ‘The Unholy’.

If you don’t want to take my word for it and decide you want to give ‘The Unholy’ a chance, you can stream it now on RedBox.