the unholy | evan spiliotopoulos | jeffrey dean morgan | cricket brown | william sadler | witch | possession | possessed | haunting | haunted | based on | novel | james herbert | united states | cary elwes | katie aselton | diogo morgado | christine adams | marina mazepa
Film: The Unholy
Director: Evan Spiliotopoulos
Writer: Evan Spiliotopoulos
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown and William Sadler
This was a movie that I actually have to thank Kate Pollack for turning me on to. We were chatting on a post about sub-genres we enjoy and she asked if I planned to see this. I don’t watch trailers, but I did look into this and it peaked my interest. Jaime decided to see it with me as well when we went to a local theater. The synopsis here is a hearing-impaired girl is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak and heal the sick. As people flock to witness her miracles, terrifying events unfold.
We start this movie off back in 1845. We are seeing a point of view of a woman being executed for being a witch. The mask of Satan is nailed to her face, she is hung from a tree and set on fire. What I found interesting here is that we never move away from this and it is quite horrific what happens to her. The last thing is that the man in charge holds up a doll that is wrapped in a chain to prevent her from coming back.
The movie then takes us to Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). His editor wants him to investigate a lead about a cow in New England that has a mark on it. Gerry is reluctant, but we see he is on hard times. What we will learn later was that he was one of the top journalists in the world, but he was fabricating stories and was caught. The lead he follows turns out to be nothing. Something catches his eye by an odd, old tree and it is a doll. The farmer states it is a corn baby for luck. Gerry notices it has the impossible date of February 31st, 1845 on it. To help beef up his story, he breaks the head of the doll and takes pictures of it.
That night as Gerry heads home, he almost hits a woman in the road. This causes him to crash and he gets out seeing what happened. The young woman is Alice (Cricket Brown). He follows her through the woods to the tree from earlier. He hears her whispering to it and touches her shoulder. She is taken to the local doctor of Natalie Gates (Katie Aselton). She is irate with Gerry and warns him if anything happens to the young woman, she will see he’s put in jail.
Gerry stays the night and the next day goes to church. Alice is an orphan and stays there as Father Hagan (William Sadler) is her uncle. Alice is also a deaf/mute, but Gerry thinks he heard her talk. Something amazing happens. Alice is hearing something and it causes her to stand up in the middle of Father Hagan’s sermon. She goes outside to the tree and all of a sudden, she starts talking. She says that the Virgin Mary has spoken with her. That she has healed her and that they should all pledge their faith to her. Alice the next day also feels a little boy with muscular dystrophy.
As word gets around, Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes) and Monsignor Delgarde (Diogo Morgado) are called in to prove the validity of the miracle. Gerry also befriends Alice and obtains exclusive rights to report on this. This seems to be a shot at redemption for his career. The problem though, is the entity speaking and helping Alice really the Virgin Mary? Or is it something much more sinister?
Where I want to start with my analysis here is that I should lead off stating this is one of my favorite sub-genres of film. It is interesting as I’m not religious, but religion does fascinate me and even more so with the conventions that this movie is using with it.
Since this movie is starting off with the execution of the witch, I will start there. We get quite a bit of films on either side here where they are actually killing a witch or doing it in error of a more barbaric time. This could be considered a spoiler, but Mary Elnor (Marian Mazepa) is actually a witch. She did have a pact with the devil. I do like that there are records in this movie to help fill in this back-story. Going along with this, I do have a minor gripe that the mask of Satan wasn’t removed, as it is something that is supposed to limit them. It does make for cool images so I get why keeping it until a reveal later. There are also hand drawn images of popular things that will pop up regularly in movies like this.
Where I want to shift to next would be Gerry. He was on top of the world in his profession, but we learn as it goes on, he did some corrupt things to stay there. I like that he is capitalizing on what is in front of him. He is greedy and prideful. He is also the reason that everything happens in this movie as well. I do believe he would do these things and Morgan’s cocky attitude he brings to the role helps a lot. This also becomes a redemption tale for him that I liked.
Next I think I will take on the elephant in the room for this movie, religion, and the corruption there. Father Hagan is a good guy. He is raising Alice, who since her parents died has grown up in the church. She is innocent and this entity is capitalizing on it. It also heals her hearing and ability to talk. The seduction there makes sense. Father Hagan is worried as the word of what happened here gets out, ruining Alice’s life like it has for others that discovered things like this. They used real events which makes it even more impactful. Father Hagan wants to protect her. This is all good aspects to it though; I do need to say that. Monsignor Delgarde is also good in my opinion. He is there to try to disprove it, but I think we should question our beliefs. Despite him coming off as hard, he just wants to make sure the validity and does seem to want to protect Alice as much as he can.
This movie does explore the horrors of Catholicism and religion in general. Bishop Gyles really just wants to further the church whether it is through publicity or monetary. He seems nice at first, but is a scoundrel. We also have all of the followers who come and believe in Alice. I really think that this movie is pointing out the fact that many followers of religion do it blindly. I can see getting sucked in. Alice can talk and hear when she has never been able to. Toby Walsh (Danny Corbo) couldn’t walk and now he is. Father Hagan had emphysema and she cures it, which at this time isn’t possible. There are things there that can blind followers. This movie has a commentary on not blindly following and to question at all times. There is also a miracle that happens in the movie I wasn’t a big fan of. I get why it is there though. It just goes against a personal preference for me.
I really think that is everything I wanted to go into for the story. Next I want to talk about the acting. Morgan fits his role perfectly. He brings a bit of sarcasm and just charisma to the role. I feel like he would be this photographer. Elwes is actually solid here as well. I like that at first he seems like he could be good, but there is something there you don’t trust. It makes sense as the movie goes on with reveals. Sadler is solid as Father Hagan. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him in a bad role. Brown does great as Alice. She has an innocence about her that is needed. Aselton, Morgado and the rest of the cast fit for what was needed as well. The last person I would give props as well to Mazepa who is the witch of Mary
Some thing else that I needed to go into would be the effects. This movie does relay on jump-scares. I’ll admit, there was a couple that got me which doesn’t happen often. I will say that seeing this Jaime might have been part of the reason, but I’ll still give credit. I do think that when they go with practical effects, those looked good to me. Seeing the dark entity I thought was creepy. Also getting to see what Alice is seeing with Mary bathed in light was good. There is some CGI fire that doesn’t look good though. I did notice some other parts here as well with the CGI that don’t work for me. Aside from that I would say that the cinematography was good as well.
Then really the last thing to go into would be the sound design and soundtrack. For the former, I think they use it strategically. I like they quickly establish that Alice is deaf with having no sound. It has a subtle shift that she can now hear and I liked that. There are some musical cues for jump-scares. I’m not always the biggest fan there. I would say that on the whole though, the music works for what was needed.
In conclusion here, I really liked this movie. Seeing the score on the Internet Movie Database and hearing that this was paint by numbers for a movie like this, I can see that. I’ll probably be higher than most due to the social commentary and what I can take from it. I think the concept here is interesting. The acting was good in my opinion. The effects I’m positive on for the most part and I would say about the same for the soundtrack/design as well. To close this out here, I don’t think everyone really enjoy this as much as I did. I’d say for me this is a good movie and would recommend if this sub-genre works for you. This is another movie that I do want to revisit before the end of the year as well to see where I said with a second viewing.
My Rating: 8 out of 10