Unholy, The (1988)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2008-04-25 14:08

Directed by: Camilo Vila
Written by: Philip Yordan and Fernando Fonseca
Starring: Nicole Fortier, Ben Cross, Hal Holbrook and Jill Carroll

Reviewed by: Josh G.

It was a sunny August day. I had just finished up my appointment at the hair cutters, when I spotted a video store. It was a well known chain, and I had had a fair amount of luck before with these stores when it came to finding horror videotapes. Ghoulies 2, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and others were just lying on the shelf in the previous year of my treasure hunting. Here, films such as Popcorn, Leprechaun 2, and The Evil Within were plastering the ‘for sale’ section. But I wanted more! At the time, all of these titles were available on DVD, and although they boasted beautiful cover art, they were hardly lost gems. “The Unholy?” It sounded like a familiar name, and with a spooky front, featuring an intimidating lady and a priest, it was for sure released on DVD previously. Right? Little did I know, what I had found was a relatively hidden prize; a power to be reckoned with, and a movie that was mine for the loving.

Father Dennis (Ruben Rabasa) is praying to God in his church, asking for forgiveness, when a mysterious woman (Nicole Fortier) appears, wearing barely anything. He kisses her, but with unsatisfying results! She’s a demon, and she has come to claim his soul for Hell. Slashing out his throat, the priest dies in a pool of his blood. Three years later, Father Michael (Ben Cross of Paperhouse, Wicked Little Things, and Exorcist: The Beginning) is called upon by a man on the ledge of a building. Claude (Peter Frechette) is attempting suicide, but Michael calmly tries to persuade his decision otherwise. Claude’s self-inflicting hunger quickly changes, when he pulls Father Michael out of the building, sending him seventeen stories down. Nobody can survive that! Not even a man of God.

It looks as if higher powers have other plans. Father Michael is sent to a hospital, where they find no injuries whatsoever. Archbishop Mosely (famed Hal Holbrook, also from Girls Nite Out) and blind Father Silva (Trevor Howard of Mutiny on the Bounty, playing his final role before death) are somewhat suspicious. They know something, and they quickly take action. They send Father Michael to the church where Dennis was murdered three years earlier. It has been shut down, but Michael is set out to start it back up again. With Teresa (Claudia Robinson) helping out, the place is starting to look nice again. Father Michael is visited by a cop, who informs the priest about Father Collins, who was murdered in the same fashion, in the same church, a year before Father Dennis. He talks about a girl named Millie (Jill Carroll) who appeared in Father Dennis’ appointment book. Father Michael believes that she may know something about Dennis, and he goes on a search.

At a club where Satanic shows and rituals are being performed, Father Michael contacts Millie, but her answers don’t give him much important information. In the days that follow, Michael receives a visit from Millie, who spouts about the leader of her club, Luke (William Russ) being the Devil. She wants to leave, but she can’t find it in herself to do so. She warns Michael not to come around the club again. Luke shows up at Michael’s church, spreading the word that Millie is out of her mind, and admitting to him that there have been weird supernatural events going on at his place. Archbishop Mosely sighs when Michael tells him of his story, replying with the fact that these same things have happened before – with Father Dennis. They have to tell Father Michael the truth. There is a ‘chosen one’, a saint, who will defeat an evil demon; a temptress. Its job is to kill its victims – priests – in the act of a sin. Troubled Millie makes it harder for Michael to concentrate on his goal, as lust tries to take over. Will this demon, which they call The Unholy, take Michael’s soul just like the previous two? Father Michael hasn’t got a prayer. Murders, seduction, and the fate of the future. Who will survive The Unholy, and at what cost?

As soon as Fay Dunaway’s trailer for the thriller Midnight Crossing is wrapped up, Vestron’s movie package heads onward at full force. Nicole Fortier is exposed, naked as the day she was born, chased by a vicious and bloody neck rip. It catches your attention, and for the first fifteen minutes, you are captured in the moment. It’s dirty on the streets of New Orleans. A wall spray painted with the words, “Suicides have sex with demons from Hell” offers up creativity, tone, and a little bit of dark humor. Depressingly, our lead, Ben Cross, is weak as our guide. He doesn’t show emotion nearly as much as he should be, and when he does, it’s underacted. His final moments on the screen are superb though. Father Michael is not very believable, but you still find yourself waist deep in the story, even without his full heart into the role.

I never thought about it much at first, but The Unholy is a really cheesy movie. There is a lot of religious talk, but it never crosses into something that is being poured down your throat. The demon’s true form is shown in the film’s ending battle of good versus evil, and it’s very silly looking. Dangerous, slimy, and large, but the Unholy creature’s eyes make it laughable. The best part, by far, are the demon’s two mini-demon warriors, who go around nailing hands and running through the aisles. A little bit taller than the Leprechaun, or Chucky from Child’s Play, these are NOT to be taken seriously. In fact, all three demons help Father Michael to take a communion of evil by feeding him. The make-up is great, and the death scenes are horrific. My personal favorite part is when a man ends up vomiting buckets of his own blood, and then he bursts into flames. Wow. The dark side sure is becoming inventive these days.

Many horror happenings are dipped in throughout The Unholy. Subliminal messages of future events in the feature are startling, but not scary. Father Michael wakes up with a pile of snakes surrounding his crotch and a phone call from Hell is delivered. On first watch, The Unholy is a treat. With repeat viewings, the first half is a little slow, but the second fifty minutes zoom by. Everyone’s favorite Hal Holbrook, playing a decent role, will make viewers feel a bit more comfortable with a blind watch. There are some more funny bits mixed in, like Father Silva having a Scholar of Demonology. Then again, I never was that into the flow of priesthood. Maybe such a thing does exist. Millie is a confusing character, whose intentions are not always clear. Is she good? Bad? Does she want to be good? Well, all is summed up before the credits roll, and the end leaves a good discussion for debate, starting with “Does that mean...?”. Omit the flaws, and The Unholy is an excellent ride. As it currently stands, it still is. I wouldn’t call it a ‘must own’ or anything, but you’ll be happy with the result. I guarantee that. Pray you find it on your next scavenger hunt. Evildoing awaits. Buy it!

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