I remember seeing the VHS box for "The Unholy" back in the day at the local K-Mart.
I'm sure many a horror fan remembers seeing this going to the local mom and pop rental or movie chain. Like "The Brain", "Hellraiser" and "Evil Dead II", it had a cover that caught you eye. I didn't rent it, but that cover stuck with me. Well, it was on IFC last night, so is it worthy of such striking box art? The short answer: occasionally, but mostly no.
In New Orleans, several priests have been killed, so it's up to Father Michael (Ben Cross) to stop it. There's a catch though: he doesn't really believe in devils and demons, even after a visit with a man known as Luke (William Huss) who has been witnessing a presence, as has virginal Millie (Jill Carrol.) In the process, he's been seeing visions of a naked temptress, whose actual a demon known as a Daeisidarius...
On paper, "The Unholy" should work. Most of the performances are good, there's some striking visuals, and the gore and creature effects (including what can only be described as demonic munchkins) from Bob Keen-who at the time was being called "The British Savini"-are a lot of fun. The problem though, is everything else. The score by Roger Bellon is your basic "synthesizers at high volume" type of late 80's horror music, it's unintentionally amusing at parts and entire plot points such as an investigation from a detective played by Ned Beatty are largely forgotten.
The biggest problem however, is the direction. Simply put, director Camilo Vila films the whole thing as if it were a bland TV movie. Thanks to that, there's nothing here that's scary or atmospheric. With a better director and script (which was co-written by Phillip Yordan* of all people), this could have been something worth watching.
As it stands, only the less discriminate of 80's horror fans might enjoy this movie. Everyone else is better off watching something more worthwhile, like "Breaking Bad" or funny pet videos.
*Yordan was a longtime screenwriter for Hollywood, whose credits included "El Cid", "The Naked Jungle", "Johnny Guitar", "Mutiny", "King of Kings" and "God's Little Acre." His only other genre credits are "Day of the Triffids" and "Conquest of Space."