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Unholy (2007)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
Genres:
Horror, Naziploitation, Paranoid Thriller, Supernatural Horror
Director:
Daryl Goldberg Daryl Goldberg
Starring:
Adrienne Barbeau Adrienne Barbeau
Nicholas Brendon Nicholas Brendon
Siri Baruc Siri Baruc
Richard Ziman Richard Ziman
Cheyenne Casebier Cheyenne Casebier

3.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Martha, a widow living in rural Pennsylvania, comes home to find her daughter about to blow her own head off with a shotgun in the basement of their house. Martha doesn't succeed in stopping her child's horrific demise, but the girl's death gradually leads the grieving mother to investigate a conspiracy that involves a legendary local witch, Nazi dabbling with the occult, and secret government experiments, with the story even referencing the fabled Philadelphia Experiment. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: August 09, 2012
Another month, another batch of expiring Netflix movies. As I mentioned in my last review, the end of the month always signals a fresh batch of movies expiring on Netflix, and thus, it's always a mad rush to go through and try to watch as many as possible before they are yanked. These are usually movies that, for me, fall in that grey area of "sounds good, let's queue it up" and "I don't really feel like watching that right now." Thus, they sit in the queue for years until the expiration date rolls around. Unholy is the next to last movie that is about to expire in my queue, so here we go.

The film wastes no time in getting down to business, and we begin with a lady named Martha (Adrienne Barbeau) picking up some flowers at the local shop for her daughter Hope's birthday. She brings them home and finds a note on the table that says "Down in cellar", so naturally, she heads to the cellar and finds that it is chained shut... and her daughter (Siri Baruc) is down there with a shotgun. The poor girl is hysterical and rambling on about some sort of experiment, and it ends with the lass blowing her head off and the mother breaking down.

A few days pass, and Martha calls her son Lucas (Nicholas Brendon) and tells him the news. He rushes to the house and tries to console his mom, and the two head to the cellar to try to make sense of Hope's suicide - she seemed like such a happy girl, so why would she kill herself? I don't want to go too much further with the plot, but let's just say that they discover government conspiracies, Nazi experiments, and a little thing called the Unholy Trinity (consisting of time travel, invisibility, and mind control).

Unholy has an interesting story to tell, but the problem is simple: it's not told very well. For starters, the movie feels too short (eighty minutes), and thus, it feels a little rushed at times. This is one of those cases where I'm sure the writers knew what they were aiming to achieve, but they sort of forgot that the audience isn't in their head and doesn't know what they were trying to accomplish with the story. It felt like vital pieces of the story were left on the cutting room floor, and truth be told, I was completely lost until the final scenes... and even then, I only "sort of" figured out what they were going for. I mean, I got the general concept, but there were just so many plot devices floating around that tying them together felt like a chore instead of something that would come naturally.

I also thought that the pacing was a little weird. There are times when it actually moves a little too slow, and thus, your attention will more than likely start to drift a bit. Nothing much will be going on, or the characters will be simply rehashing things we've already seen. Then, it feels like the writers realized that they were running short on time and had to catch up with doling out the plot, so we'll be hit with four or five things in rapid succession. There is one scene in particular that featured a lady discussing the various conspiracies and whatnot, and she was just running her mouth a mile a minute, spilling out plot revelations the entire time. That's not a knock on the actress, but that scene should have been written a little better.

Speaking of which, I do have to give the cast credit for pulling off great performances. Adrienne Barbeau in the lead is beyond excellent, and she easily shows that she still has that "it" factor that made her such a household name back in her day. The opening scene with her daughter is downright heartbreaking, and that is only ten percent writing... the other ninety percent is Barbeau's performance. Nicholas Brendon does manage to keep up with her for the most part, and aside from a couple of scenes, I really can't say anything bad about him. Siri Baruc has a minor role in the movie (ten minutes at the beginning, ten minutes at the end), and she is hit or miss: she's great during her first half, and a little weak during her second. There are also a handful of secondary characters, and even though none of them were particularly noteworthy, they did pull their roles off well and did what they were supposed to.

One other thing that really bugged me about the movie was the audio side of things - the filmmakers really should have fixed this up before releasing it to the masses. It seemed like the dialogue levels were in constant competition with everything else: the musical score constantly overshadows the dialogue, and when it's not the music doing it, it's other things (the car engine when they're driving, the wind blowing when they're outside, and so on). I liked the somber style of music that was featured here and felt that it fit the film rather well, but when it blots out the actual words being spoken between the characters, something definitely needs to be changed. Unfortunately, the Netflix version didn't come with subtitles, so there were key scenes that I totally missed out on because I simply couldn't hear what was being said.

Truth be told, I'm in the middle on this one: it's not a horrible movie and I'm not going to out and out slam it, but at the same time, it's not a great movie and I'm not going to recommend that you rush out and track it down. There are a lot of interesting ideas here and the performances were great, but the delivery dragged the overall product down considerably. Perhaps a more experienced filmmaker could have made it work out better, or maybe director Daryl Goldberg could have done it with another half hour or so, but as it stands, the film just falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. 5/10.
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