Lionsgate has released the Unholy under their Vestron Video Collector Series for Blu-ray. The 1988 film is directed by Camila Vila and stars Ben Cross, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Trevor Howard, William Russ, Nicole Fortier and Peter Frechette. Does it belong in your collection? Read on to find out!
In New Orleans, a city with a dark underside of black magic and satanic worship, 2 priests have been brutally murdered at St Agnes Church. Now The Unholy reign only to be challenged by the purest of mortal souls. Father Michael, a skeptical priest, is appointed to the ungodly parish. Is he really strong enough to fight off this terrible evil? Or will he be the third priest to die? Will a demon posing as a beautiful seductress be too much for Father Michael to handle?
The Unholy comes to us from Cuba born director Camilo Vila. The story is written by Oscar winner Philip Yordan, who is known for El Cid, Battle of the Bulge, Johnny Guitar, King of Kings and much more. It’s a very odd mixing of talents. Apparently Yordan wrote the script in the 70’s after the success of the Exorcist and the Omen. Nothing ever came of it until years later when the director came across it and wanted to make it.
You have quite a recognizable cast, although they all don’t get a ton of screen time in a B movie with a moderate budget. Everyone acts serious and professional but this film is very much so a cheesy 80’s monster movie. Director Camilo Vila proclaimed that this was not a horror film during its initial release despite the fact that the film was about literal demons from hell. The behind the scenes story is just as interesting as the film itself, with the director wanting to make one kind of film and the studio wanting another. I think it is this troubled production, sincerity of story with serious actors and disconnect from the director that draws me to the film even all these years later.
The visual effects work is done by Bob Keen. He was a model maker for Star Wars A New Hope, Superman, and Alien. He did makeup effects for Hellraiser, Krull, Lifeforce and Candyman. You have probably seen his special effects work in Highlander, Waxwork, Nightbreed, Hellraiser III, and Event Horizon. So the credentials are there for a fun time. Unfortunately the Unholy isn’t packed full of special effects as they were making a “serious” film but when they present themselves it’s either well done or at least fun.
I already owned the Unholy on DVD and thankfully I can now get rid of it. The Blu-ray looks superb and is very much improved! The colors look nice and its the picture quality you would expect from a moderately budgeted late 80’s horror film to have. The sound is mostly dialog heavy and fits the bill as well. I think everyone should be happy with the presentation from Vestron.
Audio Commentary with Director Camilo Vila
Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon
Audio Interview with Production Designer/Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca, with Isolated Selections from Unused Score
Original Ending featuring Optional Audio Commentary with Producer Mathew Hayden
“Sins of the Father with Ben Cross”
“Demons In The Flesh: The Monsters of The Unholy”
“Prayer Offerings with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca”
TV Spots and Radio Spots
Original Storyboard Gallery and Still Gallery
The Unholy Final Thoughts:
I think the general interest in this film may vary greatly. A lot of it has to do with when you watched it and what age you were. I’m very happy it is finally on Blu-ray and I can retire my DVD version. The movie itself takes things pretty serious even though the story is pretty goofy. How much you enjoy 80’s religious horror, practical effects with rubber monster suits, gratuitous nudity and a story with a slow burn will determine how much you will like the Unholy.
I think the Unholy is memorable and fun, a nostalgic product of it’s time. Of course I also love Manos: the Hands of Fate so take that as you will. If you are a new viewer I would suggest a rental first. If you have never seen the Unholy or haven’t seen it in a long time and the screen shots look interesting to you it is certainly worth a purchase. However if you already like the movie and want to own it for your collection I recommend a pickup here on Amazon.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.