THE UNHOLY (1988) Reviews and overview

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‘You haven’t got a prayer.’

The Unholy is a 1988 American supernatural horror feature film directed by Camilo Vila from a screenplay written in the 1970s by Philip Yordan (Cataclysm) and Fernando FonsecaThe movie stars Ben Cross, Ned Beatty and features Trevor Howard in his final role.


New Orleans: Having miraculously survived a fall from a seventeen storey building, Father Michael (Ben Cross) is appointed pastor of St. Agnes church, which has been closed for three years following the mysterious deaths of his predecessors.

Father Michael attempts to find out why he has become the ‘Chosen One’ while resisting a powerful demon who takes the form of a seemingly irresistible beautiful woman…

The film was released for the first time on Blu-ray on June 27, 2017 as part of Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series line.

Buy Blu-ray:

  • Audio Commentary with director Camilo Vila
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon
  • Audio Interview with Production Designer and Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca, Featuring Isolated Selections from His Unused Score
  • ”Sins of the Father” with Ben Cross
  • Demons in the Flesh: The Monsters of The Unholy
  • ”Prayer Offerings” with Fernando Fonseca
  • Original Ending Featuring Optional Audio Commentary with Producer Mathew Hayden
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Original Storyboard Gallery
  • Still Gallery


” …The Unholy remains an intriguing curiosity due to its unusual evolution and unique position as a time capsule of late 1980s horror. Even undercut by hokey creatures, divergent dialogue, and a mishmash of myriad pieces, the gravitas of its cast and guts to go all in on ill-advised gambles sees the film holding up well enough three decades later, all things considered.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt

The Unholy embraces 1980s style and aesthetic – including colorful lighting from cinematographer Henry Vargas and an electronic score by Roger Bellon (Waxwork) – but its structure largely resembles that of religious horror films such as The Exorcist and The Omen. Struggling to find its footing between two styles, the film has the overt sexuality and gore of the ‘80s without the sense of fun commonly associated with the decade…” Alex DiVincenzo, Broke Horror Fan

“The practical effects work and creature creations that are employed in the last half of the film are sufficiently icky if never particularly terrifying (the two mini-demons that accompany the main demon are pretty goofy, but still kind of cool in their own strange way) and there’s a fair amount of gore and nudity on display. This keeps the picture’s exploitation content reasonably high.” Ian Jane, Rock! Shop! Pop!

“Vila leans into purely visual filmmaking, summoning up frenzied lighting and Jigoku-esque montages of Hell’s torments. If only the rest of the film could live up to this sort of potential instead of wasting just about everything […] The Unholy feels less like an Exorcist rip-off and more like a half-hearted stab at cashing in on the previous year’s much superior Angel Heart.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!


Cast and characters:

  • Ben Cross – Father Michael
  • Ned Beatty – Lieutenant Stern – Repossessed; Exorcist II: The Heretic; Deliverance
  • William Russ – Luke
  • Jill Carroll – Millie
  • Hal Holbrook – Archbishop Mosely – Creepshow; The Fog; Rituals
  • Trevor Howard – Father Silva – Craze; Persecution; The Night Visitor
  • Claudia Robinson – Teresa
  • Nicole Fortier – Demon
  • Peter Frechette – Claude

Technical details:

  • 102 minutes
  • Audio: Dolby
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1

Film Facts:

SFX creator Bob Keen (Hellraiser) was hired to add additional gore scenes after production wrapped.

Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

More religious horror

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