Cinematic Releases: The Unholy (2021) - Reviewed

Back in October of 2020 I reviewed Marco Pontecorvo’s faith-based retelling of the miracle of Fatima which told the story of Sister LĂșcia and her young cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto who claimed to have witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary.   Not even a few months later, now here is Sony Pictures’ horror movie version of the same story entitled The Unholy which puts a demonic spin on the Fatima story.  An odd title indeed to make immediately following Fatima let alone release theatrically on the Easter weekend of 2021 but stranger things have happened within the past year. 

Loosely based on James Herbert’s 1983 novel Shrine, the film concerns a deaf girl named Alice (Cricket Brown) whose hearing and ability to speak is mysteriously restored by a supposed visitation from the Virgin Mary.  Soon she is performing miracles with people around the world flocking to the small town of New England as a shrine forms around the mysterious tree from whence the miracles began.  Searching for a way to resuscitate his career, disgraced journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) zeroes in on the town to investigate.  Upon closer inspection, he finds there might be something a bit more mercurial about the supernatural events cropping up in the small New England town.
The debut of writer/producer/director Evan Spiliotopoulos co-produced by The Evil Dead masterminds Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert The Unholy is about what you expected it to be: another predictable devil horror movie loaded with cheap jump scares.  While Jeffrey Dean Morgan lends the project a certain amount of weight and manages to carry the piece mostly by himself, William Sadler is underutilized as a lung cancer-stricken priest with Cary Elwes once again playing a sleazy go getter.  Mostly however the cast is greatly overqualified for what essentially amounts to, at times, surprisingly violent and gory PG-13 horror dreck.
Visually the film looks fine in panoramic widescreen by television cinematographer Craig Wrobleski and the score by Joseph Bishara who famously rescored Nosferatu before taking on the Insidious series is pretty standard horror movie soundtrack fare.  Director Spiliotopoulos, whose previous writing credits include numerous straight-to-video Disney sequels, seems like an odd choice to helm a jump scare laden horror flick but I suppose he does the job well enough. 

The Unholy isn’t a bad movie by any means, just a mostly average devil horror programmer with a more talented cast than it deserves slumming their way through it.  Reportedly this took the number two spot at the box office over the weekend just being Godzilla vs. Kong which continues to make startling numbers against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Whether or not you’re undecided over the risks involved in venturing out to the theater this week, I can tell you with confidence The Unholy simply isn’t worth the trouble.

--Andrew Kotwicki