“Unholy” stars horror veteran Adrienne Barbeau who does her best to cope with the material she’s given in this shlocky, dull ghost film. In one of the only gripping moments of the film, Barbeau’s character Martha arrives home for her daughter Hope’s birthday to find her in the basement preparing to commit suicide. Truly, Barbeau and co-star Siri Baruc sell this moment sans any dramatic pitch in the score. Subsequently, director Daryl Goldberg can never seem to break out of the vicious cycle of clichés, predictable plot twists, nor enough to provide material that will put the talents of its infinitely small cast to work.
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. Goldberg really has one thing going for him though; these days it’s almost impossible to find horror films that features a heroine well into her fifties, and Barbeau gives it her best.
She works well off of Nicholas Brendon who plays her long suffering pot head son Lucas, who arrives after his sister commits suicide and finds himself in the middle of a ring of murder and conspiracy. This mystery is something that writer Freeman fails to break ground with. Old witches are called upon, people are shrouded in shadows, and strangers warn Martha “not to meddle into the occult.” There’s the old convoluted chestnut of the government experimenting with the occult and on Hope who was the victim of a Necromancer– and something else involving zombies.
I couldn’t understand it all. “Unholy” is so horribly paced that I did everything in my power to stay awake (it’s not even a ninety minute film). Where tension fails, dream sequences are tacked on. We’re drawn deeper into the incoherent story and laughable gory sequences that Barbeau and Brendon attempt to salvage with some respectability. Barbeau can perform this role in her sleep, and surely enough she looks lethargic most of the time on screen. There are all sorts of themes put on the table for us from cults, to witch doctors, right down to psychotic flower shop owners, all of it leading into a brick wall of a clunky climax.
“Unholy” is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen; it has the potential to be an above par supernatural thriller, especially since it sports the talents of Barbeau and Brendon, but Goldberg’s chaotic direction matched with Freeman’s incoherent script makes this another forgettable video store shelf warmer.