“The Unholy” is a well-acted religious horror film with one fatal flaw – a script that is way too predictable.
First-time director Evan Spiliotopoulos, who adapted the screenplay from a book by James Herbert, overstuffs the film with familiar horror tropes. You can practically make a list before going to the theater and then check them off one by one as they appear on the screen.
In “The Unholy,” Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Gerry Fenn, a disgraced journalist now going from town to town while trying to dig up tabloid-level stories to make a few bucks.
Fenn stops in a small New England town where he stumbles upon an event that could get him back in the good graces of former employers – a deaf girl named Alice (newcomer Cricket Brown), who can suddenly hear and speak.
Alice claims she has seen the Virgin Mary, who has not only healed her but given the young woman powers to heal as well.
As word of Alice begins to spread, Fenn starts to question if this is not the work of the Virgin Mary but the work of something sinister.
Morgan is fairly engaging in the lead role, even if his backstory will have most journalists rolling their eyes in disbelief.
Brown makes a big splash in her first feature film. The camera clearly loves this young actress, who makes the audience want to root for Alice. The actors’ chemistry also carries “The Unholy” for a while.
The cast also includes William Sadler as a local priest and Alice’s uncle, Cary Elwes as a member of the archdiocese and Katie Aselton as a local doctor who befriends Fenn.
With the exception of Elwes, who has one of the worst Boston accents in recent memory, the supporting cast is just as engaging as the two leads and brings a bit of authenticity to all of this.
But even a cast as good as this can’t overcome a screenplay that is basically just spare parts from every other religious horror film ever made. You’ve seen pretty much everything in “The Unholy” before, and most of the time in better films.