Review: The Unholy

‘The Unholy’, man, this takes me back. A condensed and unabashed example of pure 1980s cheesy horror movie. Love it.

The plot opens with the tempting of a priest from a sultry veiled red-head. Succumbing to the temptations of the flesh the priest is subsequently murdered, rather gruesomely I might add setting the context and tone for the rest of the movie to follow. Our story truly begins with the introduction to another priest, this one miraculously surviving a fall from the top of an apartment block who is then tasked, by the upper echelons of the church, to reopen the dead priest parish and ultimately confront the titular ‘Unholy’, a demon with a penchant for the souls of priests.

What ensues is a rather hammy and often humorous tale of faith, temptation, and whilst I’m not convinced this film is 100% biblically accurate, a depiction of the eternal struggle of good vs evil.

The films story provides the backdrop for the tick list of 80s horror necessities. Tits and impromptu sexual scenes, the punk-ass antagonist, dodgy set designs – houses where the exterior sets bear little to no resemblance to the internals. Actors, and a script, which takes absurd scenarios dead, dead serious and of course, one huge set piece ending featuring state of the art B-Movie effects to bring the whole affair to a baffling and equally absurd conclusion – all of which would likely compose the films pre-release trailer!

Did I mention I love this film?

It is everything an 80s B-Movie needs to be, and rather than slasher themed (that cash cow had run well and truly dry by 1989) ‘The Unholy’ takes its influences from the fewer, but equally persistent, movies which dealt with the coming of a demon or devil; most notably John Carpenter’s 1987 ‘Prince of Darkness’. If you can’t beat them, copy them, and even if you’ve not got the quality in-front or behind the camera, just throw everything you have at it and get the award for effort.

This film sure does that in spades!

Rather than be a technically good movie, ‘The Unholy’ delivers, in hindsight, all the qualities in a film that would persist. Being so over the top, and cliché, the film doesn’t fail to entertain, despite some lethargic pacing and seemingly absent direction. Atmosphere isn’t carefully crafted in this film, no, sinister or scary sequences are signposted through copious amounts of dry ice and strobe lighting. Due to an effects budget blown in the epic 10-minute end sequence, the film makes do with scattered gore scenes and some seriously choppy editing to mask those moments things looked more dodgy than deranged.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at the frequency of the gore and/or paranormal attack sequences. The effects look pretty decent in some regards – plenty of ‘GIF-able’ moments throughout, and the conclusion; well its worth the price of admission on its own. Any feasibility goes right out the window at this point, and any hint that the demon might be metaphorical follows right after!

The films climax sees the priest accosted by a couple of demon midgets, then harassed (rather sensually I might add) by a giant animatronic devil dog thing. He then takes a trip through hell and we see a handful more disassociated gore snippets. Everything clearly hinged on this spectacular display of B-Movie mayhem.

Honestly, if you’re in the mood for a late-night horror gem, you’ve likely seen a lot worse! As a film, its difficult to see past the plagiarism from other more successful movies, coupled with its own technical shortcomings, but as a piece of entertainment, this HD re-release is exactly what you need to cure those new year blues!

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