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The Unholy (1988) Review

The Unholy is a 1988 American horror film directed by Camilo Vila and starring Ben Cross, Ned Beatty, and Trevor Howard. The film was distributed by Vestron Pictures and was released on video in the United States on June 7, 1988.

The Unholy tells the story of a priest who is assigned to a small town in New Hampshire where he discovers that the residents are being terrorized by a demonic force. The priest, Father Michael (Cross), decides to investigate the matter and soon discovers that the town is being terrorized by a satanic cult. Father Michael then sets out to stop the cult and save the town.

Pesky priests and diabolical demon type shenanigans are the fare here as good old priest Ben Cross is sent in to end the antics of a demonic force which has been praying upon sinners. And there’s a rubbery looking monster to round things off!

It’s got sin, sex, tits, nudity, demons – and Blue! Yep, Blue, and the capitalization is deliberate not because it’s a hound dog named Blue. Many scenes are shot with a blue tinge to them that becomes really irritating after a while. Still, it could have been worse. It could have been Orange – a constant reminder of the ISP who delivered me the most atrocious service possible and who deserve to be banned from ever operating a telecoms company again.

The cast do a very good job here, all delivering good performances, but are let down somewhat by the awkward script and curious directorial decisions. At its heart the story is a solid enough tale of demonic corruption and the sins which lurk within the hearts of all men – including priests who will often lift their cassocks when offered any available hole.

Effects are generally good, and the way events unfolded had me thinking of some of the novels by William Peter Blatty (the Exorcist) meeting Jay Ansons tales (Amityville, 666) and mixing in a bit of Clive Barkers Hellraiser. Although the direction is a little clumsy the plot is essentially solid and wins through at the end of the day, no doubt in good part due to the convincing performances on screen from all concerned.

It certainly isn’t a film to rank up there with a classic like Exorcist, but it is a nice helping of demonic tomfoolery that is enjoyable to watch and has been unjustly slated from many quarters. What lets it down most is the execution, which does in places feel forced, and the overuse of Blue to create the mood. I guess hell isn’t hot, it must be a cold blue.

As it stands, this is one of those films that could have been so much more, and probably – am I really going to say this? – would benefit from a remake to correct some of the mistakes made. I don’t believe I just said that, but in this rare instance I reckon that a remake is justified. Well worth checking out as it is though, it’s a good effort.

The Unholy is a well-made horror film that is both creepy and suspenseful. The acting is good, and the film’s atmosphere is effectively eerie. The Unholy is a recommended horror film for fans of the genre.


The Unholy is a 1988 American supernatural horror film directed by Camilo Vila and starring Ben Cross, Lisa Blount, and Ned Beatty. The film was written by D. C. Cooper and Michael Miner, and was based on the novel of the same name by Frank LaLoggia.

Father Michael (Ben Cross) is a young Catholic priest who is sent to investigate a series of miracles that have been taking place in the small town of El Cajon, California. When he arrives, he finds that a statue of the Virgin Mary has been crying tears of blood, and that a young girl named Alicia (Lisa Blount) has been miraculously healed of leukaemia.

As Father Michael begins to investigate the miracles, he becomes convinced that they are genuine. However, he also believes that something evil is at work in El Cajon, and that the miracles are a sign of the Antichrist. As he delves deeper into the town’s dark secrets, he discovers that a Satanic cult is operating in El Cajon, and that the cult is responsible for the miracles.

The cult, led by a man named Father Julian (Ned Beatty), is planning to use the miracles to bring about the return of Satan. Father Michael races against time to stop the cult and prevent the Antichrist from being born.

The Unholy is a gripping supernatural horror film with a strong religious undercurrent. Ben Cross gives a great performance as the conflicted Father Michael, and Lisa Blount is excellent as the possessed Alicia. The film is atmospheric and suspenseful, and features some truly horrifying moments.

Movie Details

Director: Camilo Vila
Writers: Philip Yordan, Fernando Fonseca
Actors: Nicole Fortier, Ned Beatty, Lari White, Hal Holbrook
Release Year: 1988