Released: 15th April
Seen: 12th July
Of all the horror genres there are, the is one that I’ve never been exactly fond of and that’s the paranormal horror. Things like Paranormal Activity or Annabelle where there’s a haunting and the film is usually nothing but a set of jumpscares surrounded by mediocre characters who don’t run for their lives when that’s the safe and sensible option. Sometimes there can be exceptions, the first Conjuring movie is a prime example of a film in this genre that understands how to put tension and real stakes in to make it work… we don’t have a film like that today, we have The Unholy and I hate it.
The Unholy follows journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who, after a scandal where he allegedly made up stories, has been put on jobs that no one else wants which leads to him taking a story about cow mutilation in Banfield Massachusetts. Once there he learns that the story he came to report on was a hoax, but a more interesting one has started to form as a deaf-mute girl named Alice (Cricket Brown) has seemingly been healed by a spirit known as Mary and has begun a small congregation of people who she heals… unfortunately, Mary is not the Virgin Mary as everyone might assume but Mary Elnor, a witch who was burned at the stake and is now back for her vengeance. Blah blah, queue obligatory jump scares and loud noises, this sucks.
The Unholy sucks and I’m not even going to try and pretend it doesn’t completely suck. Nothing about this film works on any level. The scares are non-existent, failing to either be surprising enough to count as a jump scare (because you can see them coming a mile away) or look good enough to be believable. The CGI used in this movie is practically trying to pull you out of the reality of it, and it’s all for stuff that could’ve been done so much better with practical work. Things like fire, smoke, dust and blood are all so clearly CGI that it’s pathetic.
That pathetic CGi might be at its worst any time that we see Mary because we’re meant to be scared of her but I’m just sitting here laughing my ass off at how she moves. Every time she’s on screen it just looks bad, and not even standout bad. It’s just bad in a way that tells me someone was being rushed and didn’t have time to work on the shot. At least I hope this was a rush job because if someone looked at some of these shots with their bad compositing and awful CGI and said “Yeah that’s acceptable” I’m not going to be happy.
Not that happiness is a feeling one can have during The Unholy, mostly I just experienced boredom and judging by how phoned in all the performances were, I probably wasn’t the only one. Maybe the person playing Alice was coming close to trying but only because she had to project her voice to sound like a preacher and raising your voice gives the implication of emotion… no one else had that. Even people who should be better like Cary Elwes just didn’t seem to try, especially with whatever accent he was going for (was he trying to do a Boston accent?) it was just not good.
Speaking of not good, the story was a mess of a thing. You can tell The Unholy is revolving around this idea of truth and lies, our main character is on the outs because he lied about a story, the church wants to get people to lie to protect their image, the villainous Mary is lying about who she is. It’s all very set up that all this is about bad people telling lies to cover their ass and anyone who knows anything about character growth will tell you that the way this story should conclude is with our journalist using truth to set everyone free, right? Turns out the writer/director of The Unholy, also credited writer of that Beauty and the Beast remake and the Charlie’s Angels reboot doesn’t know how story structure works… shocking, I know.
The annoying thing is that The Unholy should work, the entire idea of a false prophet leading the masses to temptation is great and should work. You just take scam artist Peter Popoff (look up that asshole for fun sometime) and throw in some demonic undertones and bam, you’ve got a movie. The Unholy should work, it should be a fun scary time but it’s not. It’s boring and it’s pathetic, it doesn’t work on a single level and has nothing to offer the genre that you can’t get better in any number of films. Not a single solitary scare even had me so much as twitch, I was borderline falling asleep and that’s the gospel truth.