The Unholy

THE UNHOLY. 1988

Director: Camilo Vila

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Camilo Vila's The Unholy is an excursion into The Exorcist's territory. Ben Cross plays a hipster dipster priest convinced a sinful young businessman who owns a sadomasochist club is a dangerous felon & the murderer of the last two priests of the parish. The fact that the faux-Satan worshipper is innocent is a nice little twist, but the character gets wasted in the church so quickly after it's clear he's a good guy there was really no time for the possibilities of a heroic S/M star to be investigated.

Likewise the black woman who played a white-haired witch, she looked way great as a character, but her main scene is to act really scared & not be helpful at all, complete waste of a good hairdo. Ned Beatty as a cop who knows there's something inexplicable about the priest just walks around in a few scenes & like most of the characters is basically wasted with nothing substantial to do. Another cool old actor, Trevor Howard, gets to pretend he's blind in a couple short scenes but doesn't say much & when he does finally almost have a scene, Hal Holbrook interupts him & his character never has any pay-off; again wasted.

Indeed the whole cast is not used well enough to justify their presence & the whole story rests on the shoulders of Ben Cross as the priest who must confront the demoness called The Unholy. And as an actor, he's just not up to the task of singlehandedly carrying a film.

There are some genuinely mysterious moments. The priest tossed from a 12th floor window by a demon, but landing unhurt because he is "chosen," was an attention-getter. The statue of the female angel of death is one of the most beautiful props ever put in a movie, though it never does anything. The beautiful seductive demoness finally showing what she looks like & she looks like a weird dog that runs on all fours, that was cool. The funny little midget-demons, I don't know if they were supposed to be funny but I liked them because they were funny, right in the midst of a total gross-out sequence of events.

I'd think a director named Camilo Vila would know his catholicism but there's nothing catholic about this catholic priest. His congregation seemed rather like black southern Baptist. The magic Catholic anti-devil prayer is a dumb one in English on the back of a little calling card instead of something spiffy in Latin -- no wonder the prayer is worthless & the geeky calling card explodes in flame.

During the long torture sequence with the priest nailed to the wall in a seated position, he just sort of sits there emoting nothing, not pain, not horror, nothing, cuz he can't act, but I thought he should've been trying to invoke God with some sort of Catholic prayer but there's no dialogue except I think the virgin sacrifice is screaming by then.

When Ben Cross finally does stand up to the demon & does the get-thee-behind-me routine with sufficient authority the devil has to obey, he does it really well. I was surprised because he certainly couldn't act until that scene & then for about two & a half minutes he could act. So it was kind of a good climax.

I like sleezy horror with some religious mysticism thrown in, even if it's second-rate religious mysticism. And The Unholy gets high marks so far as second-rate goes.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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