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John’s Horror Corner: The Unholy (1988), demon seductress versus Catholicism

March 7, 2014

MY CALL:  20 great gory good-versus-evil minutes numbed by a stagnant 75 minute middle.  See this flick, but exercise your fast forward function.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Unholy:  Want to see the unholy done well?  Then I’d instead turn you to Stigmata (1999), Angel Heart (1987), Constantine (2005), The Seventh Sign (1988), The Prophecy (1995) or The Last Exorcism (2010).

The tone for this classy flick is set in the opening scene as a redhead in a completely transparent negligee seduces a Catholic priest mid-prayer.  This had me very worried that I was in for a smutty horror movie.  Thankfully, after a quick kiss (probably denoting the priest succumbing to temptation), she slashes his throat and leaves a gore-slathered gash that made the horrorhound in me gleefully “SQUEEEE” with joy.

So, to clarify, that’s both babes and blood’n guts in the first five minutes.  This should be good!  I’ll repeat a key word here…should be good.

Recently and unexpectedly appointed, Father Michael (Ben Cross; Exorcist: The Beginning, Star Trek) joins  and re-opens Saint Agnes Church after he miraculously survives a fall from a building without injury.  Saint Agnes was closed after its two former priests died at the hand of a demon referred to as “The Unholy.”  Okay, could be cool, right?  Right…?

Unfortunately it seems to take this movie forever to get back to the fun.  We had boobs and blood in the first few minutes, then nothing but boredom for the next 75–during which the most Satanic thing we see is a possessed stirring rod, a windy bedroom and a crotch full of snakes.  I get that a crotch full of snakes sounds awesome, but they found a way to make it lame just for this movie.  Unlike so much other 80s horror, this film takes itself 100% seriously.  There are no tongue-in-cheek lines or deliberately ironic death scenes.

No, instead of filling screen time with fun, this film attempts to spin a thick web of drama…and fails!  This movie even managed to make call girls, insane asylums and Satanic cults come off as boring.  Now, I must admit I laughed during a stupid scene when Father Michael’s dead predecessor calls him on the phone from Hell.  But overall this is numbingly dull.

So after a good five-minute opener followed by an unwarrantedly boring 75 minutes, our movie is finally reignited by a good old-fashioned gory disembowelment, some burning corpses, a dude vomiting a couple gallons of blood…oh, and the seductress from the opening scene is back.  You now have my attention!

It turns out our naked seductress is the demon Desidarius and, with the help of a fog machine, she transforms into a monstrous infernal quadruped assisted by some little toddler demons.  The finale is loaded with fun, weird, gory, sexual and disturbing imagery, and we get to see a lot of our demon monster.

How about a kiss?

These little guys remind me of when Craig T. Nelson vomits a whole dude in Poltergeist II.
Wait a minute!  Is that little guy dancing?

My best advice to you would be to watch this movie for 5 minutes, then fast forward through the next 75 to the closing sequence.  That will turn a largely boring movie into a way-fun 20 minute gore romp.

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