One thing filmmakers never want their film to be considered is predictable. Sadly for writer/director Evan Spiliotopoulos, The Unholy practically checks off every box of genre cliches throughout its 99 minute running time that audiences could practically foretell what’s going to take place before they even set inside a theatre.
What’s even more frustrating is that The Unholy is actually working with a premise ripe with potential, one that centres around a small New England town and the supposed Holy intervention that has caused a deaf girl, Alice (Cricket Brown), to suddenly be able to hear and speak.
Alice is claiming she has seen visions of the Virgin Mary and that she is being used as a vessel to spread the good word and perform her own small miracles. For a town driven so drastically by faith, Alice’s supposed power is immediately responded to in a God-like fashion, and visiting journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, doing the best he can with a tired script) sees this as an opportunity to advance his career, and not being a man of faith means if he believes it that it has to have some merit.
It isn’t long before Alice’s claims come under suspicion though, with an ominous presence making itself known throughout that pushes Gerry to investigate the town’s history a little further, resulting in some typical dialogue about good and evil and CGI-enhanced jump scares that are insultingly tame; credit where it’s due though, The Unholy does offer up some frightfully impressive designs when it comes to the reveal of the sinister spirit at hand. It’s a shame that by the time said sinister spirit is wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting townsfolk, the film has failed to truly captivate, so we ultimately don’t really care about what’s unfolding on screen.
Next to the trying Morgan and the suitable Brown, William Sadler (as a local priest) and Katie Aselton (as a doctor who befriends Fenn) provide serviceable work, not entirely embarrassing themselves in the process, with the same unable to be said about Cary Elwes’s appearance as a Bishop brought in to determine whether or not Alice’s claims are legitimate. Sporting a laughable Boston accent, Elwes feels as if he’s in a parody of a horror film, which, in all fairness, he might have assumed The Unholy was, given how distinctly un-scary proceedings here truly are.
Feeling more like a product that would’ve felt at home in the mid-2000’s when tween-friendly horror was something of a craze, The Unholy can’t help but have its tame indifference all the more highlighted due to the fact that the genre itself has taken such leaps ahead in showcasing the genuine terror and intelligence that’s possible. Best left to the younger crowds who are best stimulated through their eyes and not their mind, The Unholy should serve as their repentance.
The Unholy is screening in Australian cinemas from April 15th, 2021.