Thursday 28 February 2019


Following a near death experience that he inexplicably survived, Father Michael (Ben Cross) is given his own parish, St Agnes. There, he meets Millie (Jill Carroll), a teenage runaway who has become involved with a local nightclub owner with links to the occult. As Father Michael tries to save Millie and determine if the demonic goings-on are a hoax, he is forced to question the strength of his beliefs.

One of a number of religious films released in the years after The Exorcist, The Unholy takes the familiar idea of a priest trying to save a young woman but sets itself apart from the opening scene, which sees Father Dennis, the former priest for St Agnes, praying at the alter as a red-headed temptress in very see-through clothing approaches him for the last kiss he will ever have. With its garish lighting and liberal use of wind machines its like a more biblical version of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart music video, but also with more boobs.

It turns out that when he died, Father Dennis was also trying to save Millie from her association with Luke (William Russ), the owner of a local club called The Threshold that performs on stage ritual sacrifices of debatable authenticity. Luke, a weird Billy Idol-esque bad boy with a strong 'N'awlins' drawl denies having any real association with the occult and also wants to save Millie. Is Luke really who he seems or is it possible she's leading both of them on?

It's inevitable that any horror with a heavily religious theme is going to be compared to The Exorcist, but to give it its dues, The Unholy does its best to offer something different than a simple clone of that film. At times it lacks the subtlety or restraint of The Exorcist, and that had a teenage girl masturbating with a crucifix. This is more in B-movie territory, the kind of schlocky nonsense that in the early 90s you'd find in the VHS collection of your mate's older brother, with corpses bursting into flames and voluminous bloody vomit splashing down at the foot of the alter. Nice.

It also relies more on some gloopy creature effects, that work to a varying degree in the context of the story. Some of the scenes of demonic possession are exemplified by billowing curtains and torn up pieces of paper flying around, but by and large this is a well shot film with a nice visual style. Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty and Trevor Howard pop up in small roles, but the film belongs to Ben Cross who really sinks his teeth into the role of Father Michael, giving an admirably weighty performance that keeps the film from slipping into farce. With shades of Suspiria and The Wicker Man, The Unholy is an enjoyably pulpy take on the religious horror movie.


Special Features-
- Audio commentary from director Camilo Vila
- Isolated score and interview with composer Roger Bellon
- Audio interview with production designer and co-writer Fernando Fonseca
- 'Sins of the Father' with Ben Cross
- 'Prayer Offerings' with production designer and co-writer Fernando Fonseca
- 'Demons in the Flesh', the monsters of The Unholy
- Original ending with optional commentary from producer Mathew Haydon
- Theatrical trailer
- TV and radio spots
- Storyboard and stills gallery

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