Starz Home Entertainment // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 14th, 2007
They know who you are.
The government's covert plans to use the paranormal to further its global reach is revealed in this supernatural mystery starring Adrienne Barbeau and Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
When a young girl commits suicide, it starts a chain of events that leads a mother (Barbeau) and her son (Brendon) on a nightmarish trip to a nightmare world full of nightmares. Martha and her son Lucas, formerly estranged from each other, are brought back together over the shocking death. As the two poke around the crime scene, strange occurrences start happening: they're besieged by a deranged convenience store owner; a mysterious woman brings dire warnings of Nazi experimentation; and, most surprisingly, Lucas starts to develop odd powers, which are somehow connected to the Unholy Trinity of paranormal abilities.
The secret behind all of this will be unveiled and if you're a raging conspiracy theorist all of your instincts will be proven correct!
For something that shrieked controversy on its disc case marketing, Unholy is a remarkably low-key film. In fact, it can almost be mistaken for a film version of an off-Broadway stage play. If the lackadaisical pacing and dialogue top-heaviness doesn't deter you, you'll find some interesting ideas, a nifty plot twist and some solid performances lurking within.
Me, this wasn't my kind of escapism. I can objectively toss the above accolades Unholy's way, and seeing that's pretty much what I've been hired by this site to do, I, well should, but subjectively speaking the film did little to entertain me. The premise of the government dicking around in the occult is attractive and the Nazi paranormal mythology has allure (or maybe it just reminded me of Return to Castle Wolfenstein on the Xbox, which I liked a lot), but the execution failed to live up to the hype.
A plot like that requires a least a smidgen of bombast and eye candy, but the film was so intimate and character-driven the weight of the ideas were lost. I mean, who wants to hear the characters talk about all the bad-ass government occult experimentation instead of seeing the secret labs and dudes in black leather trench coats? Unholy tells and whole lot less than it shows.
Director Daryl Goldberg tries to spice things up a bit toward the end with the inclusion of a massive twist and some visual effects. The twist is the highlight of the film and, really, saves it from being branded a complete dismissal. There are some interesting plot elements at work there and I dug it, and the big finale, while overly complex for its own good left the film with a solid sense of weirdness that fit the tone. About those CGI moments: the less said the better.
Acting is strong throughout, with Brendon and Barbeau doing most of the heavy-lifting. Much of the narrative wizardry falls on Barbeau's character and the actress handles it well. Brendon deserves props just for looking like a crack addict throughout the runtime.
Video (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) and audio (5.1 surround) are all decent. The digital transfer holds up well and the picture quality is crisp. The only extra of note is a commentary track from Daryl Goldberg and writer/producer Sam Freeman. Trailers and a still gallery bring up the rear.
Unholy brings a handful of cool ideas to the table, but I found the experience talky and lethargic.
The court would like to go on record that yes, it does endorse the use of paranormal means to ensure this nation's protection.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmakers' Commentary
* Still Gallery