‘Be careful who you pray to’
The Unholy is a 2021 American supernatural horror film about a hearing-impaired girl who is seemingly visited by the Virgin Mary. Suddenly, she can suddenly hear, speak, and heal the sick.
Written and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos – making his directorial debut – based on British author James Herbert’s 1983 novel Shrine. Produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert (Evil Dead franchise).
The Ghost House Pictures-Screen Gems production stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead), Cary Elwes (Saw), William Sadler (Demon Knight) and Katie Aselton.
Alice is a young hearing-impaired girl who, after a supposed visitation from the Virgin Mary, is inexplicably able to hear, speak and heal the sick. As word spreads and people from near and far flock to witness her miracles, a disgraced journalist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hoping to revive his career visits the small New England town to investigate.
When terrifying events begin to happen all around, he starts to question if these phenomena are the works of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister…
“The Unholy is both a religious slow-burn thriller and a standard horror flick with a CGI flailing demon. This will split many because we get a lot to love, yet a particular modern horror polish tries to make this like every other movie from the last decade. In the end, the good outweighs the bad, and the cast sold me on even the more ridiculous parts…” Arrow in the Head
“Despite Morgan and Sadler giving it their all and another fantastic score by Joseph Bishara, The Unholy fails to perform the miracle of injecting new life into religious horror. Its attempts at thematic depth end up far too shallow, and there’s no real grasp of scare crafting or mood-setting to compensate.” Bloody Disgusting
” …the narrative is stuck more concerned with hiding the plot points rather than say anything of interest that can’t be picked up from the trailer or this review. However, it does have atmospheric dread, solid performances, and an effectively sinister concept to offset the depth of the story.” Flickering Myth
“There are some cool effects, like the ink melting off the pages of a holy text and others that are tired visual clichés, like a spontaneously combusting crucifix. The longer tricky old Mary drones on with her evil threats, the less scary the entity becomes. By the time she starts swooping around, turning the Feast of the Immaculate Conception into a Black Mass, she’s become a drag, like the less intimidating sister of The Nun.” The Hollywood Reporter
“The direction by Evan Spiliotopoulos is crisp and witty and I really liked the faith aspect of the movie, the way the movie takes religion seriously. Often religious types are treated as rubes in movies like The Unholy and that isn’t entirely the case here. There is one rube and sadly, he is played quite poorly by Cary Elwes.” Horror Media
“In certain cases, well-timed jolts can salvage an underwhelming plot, but aside from the obligatory “gotcha!” moments, which are few and far between, The Unholy doesn’t generate much enthusiasm. It might be enough to get horror craving fans back into theaters to feel something on the big screen, but the cheap CGI effects and flimsy production values signal this clunker should have gone straight to streaming.” The Only Critic
“I was not insulted as a moviegoer by the usual jump-out-at-you cheap shots (there were some). There is a good build-up as the innocence turns to evil and the battle begins. The filmmakers inject originality into what could have been a mediocre scarer and pull it off, at least a little.” Reeling Reviews
“There are a few good bits, like a Bible’s text liquifying and sliding off the pages, and Spiliotopoulos is good with atmosphere; he and cinematographer Craig Wrobleski make effective use of both low and overhead angles to set their moods. Points off, though, for the use of digital fire at several points during the movie.” Rue Morgue
“Whenever The Unholy wants to scare you, it simply enters internet screamer territory, complete with ghoul faces rushing directly into the camera as loud noises boom from somewhere. Outside of these admittedly startling moments, The Unholy unfolds sedately, and sometimes incoherently.” Slashfilm
“This is all clearly destined for the ‘seen this before, thanks’ box, a creative product from another time perhaps, but it’s powered by strong performances (Jeffrey Dean Morgan is excellent as the washed-up journalist) and a narrative that feels like an old friend, offering few surprises but plenty of atmosphere and a few nicely-judged jump scares.” Starburst
Father Hagan: “For where God built a church, the devil would also build a chapel.”
Gerry Fenn: “You’re the first Catholic priest to quote Martin Luther.”
The Unholy was released in the USA PG-13 rated by Sony theatrically on April 2, 2021.
Cast and characters:
Jeffrey Dean Morgan … Journalist
Cary Elwes … Bishop Gyles
Katie Aselton … Doctor Natalie Gates
Christine Adams … Monica Slade
Diogo Morgado … Monsignor Delgarde
Celeste Oliva … Librarian
Kiara Pichardo … Faithful #3
Janelle Feigley … Photographer / Reporter
Marina Mazepa … Mary Elnor
Gisela Chipe … Sofia Walsh
Dustin Tucker … Dan Walsh
Bill Thorpe … Father Prescott
Danny Corbo … Toby Walsh
Aspect ratio: 2.39 : 1