Review by Dan Skip Allen
In the past, a lot of films about exorcists and demons have come out. They are usually put into the horror genre. That's the right place for these types of films. Sometimes films about demon possession are hard to categorize. The Unholy is one of those films.
Jeffery Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead, Supernatural) plays a struggling journalist who has reverted to doing stories as a blogger/podcaster. He finds himself in Banfield, Massachusetts, a sleepy down with a supernatural backstory after a brief encounter with a deaf girl changes his whole lease on life. She discovers she can heal the sick and that's just the beginning of this far-fetched story.
This film uses a lot of religious iconography to try to get this story to make sense. The back story was interesting, but it didn't add anything new to the story we haven't seen before. Some demonic possession and a little bit of worship make the film stretch to its ninety-minute run time. That's stretching this premise to its limits. There isn't much more you could do with this tired concept.
This film just doubles down on so many tropes in horror movies of the past. It's just sad the writer James Herbert, a well-renowned horror writer, couldn't have come up with a more original story. The director of the film, Evan Spiliotopoulios, adapted the book from Herbert. It's his first directorial outing. He doesn't do any new things that could make this film stand out from any of the films similar to this in the past. Scares from seeing things in the water or blood coming from the eyes of statues are old tricks filmmakers use time and again.
One strength that the film had was its cinematography by Craig Wrobleski, a cinematographer who's been doing good work lately in The Umbrella Academy, In the Tall Grass, and Fargo. His style has a grit to it that sets his films in a realistic place and time. Jeffery Dean Morgan, Katie Aselton, and Cricket Brown all do the best they can with this material filled with horror tropes. William Sadler and Cary Elwes are eating up the scenery as two priests with different motivations.
The ads to The Unholy brag of it being out on the holiest weekend of the year. That was a good plan on their part. It's just too bad the film didn't live up to the expectations of its advertising campaign. The Unholy is another film in this genre that is just a tired rehash of so many things that have come before. Maybe somebody will adapt one of Herbert's books and give it a kick in the backside this film didn't have.
The Unholy hits theaters on April 2.