Reviews | Written by John Higgins 18/02/2019

THE UNHOLY

Perennial favourite Dirty Dancing was the film that put Vestron Pictures on the map back in 1987, and its success enabled the company to make other films. Now defunct, Vestron's titles were acquired by Lionsgate in 2003. Amongst that batch is 1988 horror mystery The Unholy, directed by Camilo Vila and starring Ben Cross, Ned Beatty and Hal Holbrook.

Father Michael (Cross) is given responsibility for the New Orleans-based St. Agnes Parish which has just reopened after a break of three years following the death of the previous priest, Father Dennis (Ruben Rabasa), who was killed on his own altar in mysterious circumstances. Determined to solve the case, Lieutenant Stern (Beatty) tries to get answers from Michael, but his task is hindered by a local nightclub owner who is using the virtues of Satanic ritual to commercialise his business. It is clear that Father Michael will have to atone and repent in equal measure if he is to retain power within his new parish.

After a bright and bloody opening, the film settles into a more mystical story before building to an atmospheric, if silly, climax. Those who don't enjoy recent CGI horror effects will happily indulge in some of the physical nuggets on show here, but the appearance of Hal Holbrook as another priest à la The Fog may provoke a touch of déja vu. The Unholy also conjures up memories of other 1980s cult hits like The Beyond, The Gate, Phantasm II and Prince Of Darkness, given its overall style and tone. Older fans will appreciate a brief but effective appearance of Trevor Howard as Father Silva.

The Blu-ray release will be welcomed by those who fondly remember seeing this on its original release, when it helped prop up the local video store shelves in an age before the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix, but younger horror fans weaned on the brutality of Game Of Thrones will be more amused than shocked.

Special features: Audio Commentary with Director Camilo Vila, Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon, Audio Interview with Production Designer and Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca, Sins of the Father with Ben Cross, Demons In The Flesh: The Monsters of The Unholy, Prayer Offerings with Production Designer and Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca, Original Ending featuring Optional Audio Commentary with Producer Mathew Hayden, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Radio Spots, Original Storyboard Gallery, Still Gallery

THE UNHOLY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: CAMILO VILA / SCREENPLAY: PHILIP YORDAN, FERNANDO FONSECA / STARRING: BEN CROSS, HAL HOLBROOK, RUBEN RABASA / RELEASE DATE: 25TH FEBRUARY

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