The Unholy (2021)
The Unholy – 2021

Written and Directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos
Based on Shrine by James Herbert
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, ,Katie Aselton, William Sadler, Diogo Morgado, Cricket Brown, Cary Elwes

One could never want imagine they’d lived life enough to say “If you’ve seen one demonic possession movie, you’ve seen them all.” Unfortunately, the events, if not the inspiration of Spiliotopoulos’ version of James Herbert’s, The Shrine have been rode hard and put away wet for years in horror cinema.

The story begins with “Mary” being hung, burned and her essence trapped in the body of a doll with the marking February 31, 1845. Years later, while tracking down a story that turns out to be a kid’s prank, journalist Gerry Fenn (Morgan) finds the doll and breaks it open.

Later that night on his way out of town, he nearly runs over Alice (Brown), who he finds to be speaking even though she is a deaf-mute. Intrigued, Gerry hangs around to break the story. Alice’s uncle is Father Hogan (Sandler) he takes Alice’s word at first that she’d been cured by the Virgin Mary. This, along with Gerry’s story, brings a circus of visitors to town, hoping to witness a miracle. Mary insists that everyone believe in her, and she’s going a long way to make this happen.

The doubt begins to creep in, but the doubters end up having bad stuff happen to them. Now they have to find and reveal the truth before “Mary” gets her way.

There could be something here, given enough time and some more character development. As it is, for a movie at 99 minutes long, we get thumbnail sketches of people and terror. Neither is enough to drive our involvement to more than bemused.

Shame of it is, this is a pretty good cast. Morgan has all of the charisma any lazy, disgraced, skeptical and lapsed Catholic journalist should have. He shelves most of it after the first act so the plot can move along. Elwes is somewhere between sinister presence and all-believing rube. William Sadler is sickly and kind throughout.

As the would be prophet, Alice, Cricket Brown is possibly the best thing about the film. She is forthright, honest and kind, with no real concept of the evil that resides within and without. Her presence of mind is key to us believing, and her innocence helps to distract while worse things wait in the area. She has a simple, easy beauty that is something one would expect from humble beginnings.

Her performance isn’t enough to salvage the rest of a film that feels like it is in remote control from the first. There is nothing here outside of Brown, worth one’s time if they have seen any other two films of the genre. There is absolutely no buildup of tension and there are no scenes that surprise in any way.

So you can skip it if you think you’ve seen anything like it.

(** out of *****)

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