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MOVIES: The Unholy - Review

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The Unholy feels like a b-grade Supernatural episode that would have looked out of place even post the peak years of Season 1-5. It’s a tepid horror movie that taps into similar ideas that the one-and-done series of Messiah on Netflix covered – if a prophet appears, are they genuine? Can they be trusted? Or is there something more sinister lurking behind their motivations?

Unfortunately, the film drops the ball hard with the reveal by letting us in on the act too early rendering any surprises useless – there’s some interesting themes explored here with the concept of faith and fame, but it lays it on too thick – Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character Gerry Fenn is an down-on-his-luck journalist who “sold [his] soul for a story”, and you’ll know this because the film tells you that over and over again. Even the talented Morgan can’t salvage this film despite giving it a commanding screen presence, everything going on here feels like a by-the-numbers exercise in what essentially amounts to the plot of an average TV episode stretched to a feature length runtime with all the predictable tropes that one might associate with a horror movie like this, with riffs of The Exorcist and a baffling subplot involving the Church which truly goes nowhere and ends in a literal fireball. All of its characters are walking cliches – and Morgan is the only one that receives any kind of development, but you’ll guess what it is the moment that he starts to talk.

There’s potential here – The Unholy has some vivid imagery in its final showdown but its biggest weakness is that it overplays its hand too early. More suspense and more unpredictability in the identity of the saviour-type figure couldn’t have gone amiss, but director Evan Spilotopoulos feels far more concerned with the redemption of Gerry Fenn than adding any sense of depth. The rest of the cast ranges from solid to unconvincing – Cricket Brown has her moments and a cast of veteran actors like William Sadler and Cary Elewes do their best with the material that they’ve been given, but their thin characters don’t do them any favours.

It feels like a throwback to the mid-2000s with jump-scare galore and a relatively simple plot-line that requires little engagement with. There’s nothing wrong with the premise of The Unholy but it just goes around in circles after setting up its premise, there’s no real plot advancement until the final act and the horror doesn’t work because of that – I watched the first two Conjuring films again recently in preparation for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and marvelled at the strength of the character work in those films and how vital it is for them to work as well as they do – but unfortunately The Unholy almost shows the dangers of focusing too much on one particular character, as everything else is left by the wayside.

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