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The Unholy – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

It feels like Vestron Video had been dormant for a little bit, with no releases in the oeuvre since that sweet little Wishmaster Collection set many months ago. But, if you think about it, there were four Wishmaster movies and if you did one per month, we’d be just fine (Look at the blowhard defense lol). Well, its summer and they are finally back, venturing int 1980s religious horror with The Unholy. This Ben Cross-led film was formerly of those horror multipacks and one of the more frequently requested titles for them to put out. Now its here and it looks to be stocked and loaded.  You can make sure you have yourself a copy of this sexy bit of sanctity fright when it drops on Blu-ray for the first time June 27th by clicking on the Amazon link and securing one via pre-order.   

Film 

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 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?

Outside of The Exorcist or the other bigger, more prestige ones, I didn’t really get into religious horror films back in the day. So, while I’ve had it in a horror 8-pack for many years, this Blu-ray is my first experience with 1988’s The Unholy. While I’m sort of numb to things now, I could see a younger me really getting a good, twisted spook out of this movie.

While I think the movie does what it does just fine, this film feels like an Americanized take on the Italian horror film of the same era. The movie is a little weird, sexy and features many scenes of visions and nightmares with wild lighting that hazily string together. This goes along with some rather nice practical effects work that doesn’t pull back any of its punches and never fears letting you have a bit of a gaze at the meaty and bloody details. And I mean, some of these people get gutted up pretty good.

Nicole Fortier may nay say a word here, but damnit she really steals this show. She’s in some see through clothing the whole time, but she has evil sexiness to her. There’s a confidence and a commanding presence every time she takes the screen. You’re weak to her presence. Fortier truly mesmerizes and is one of the biggest strengths of the film. Though it does have some solid side players like Hal Holbrook and Ned Beatty, they aren’t in the movie much and its up to bland Ben Cross to carry it. I’ve never really gotten the appeal, but he’s serviceable. Its almost humorous in the begging when he arrives on an accident scene early on in the film and goes about it like he’s the doctor at a restaurant while someone is having a health issue (“I’m a priest, is there anything I can be of help with?”). Its pretty damn laughable I’ll say.

The Unholy works enough to be a nice little horror revisit and would work great as a change of pace or religious horror pivot when doing a scary movie marathon. There’s likely not a lot that its going to have a cross over with if you’re mixing genres. And once again, I gotta mention how good Nicole Fortier is, as its a shame she only did two movies and this is her last one. There seems to not be much information about her at all. Its not great, but its entertaining for its visuals, effects and sexiness. Oh, and damn that friggin statue, that thing is CREEPY as all freakin’ hell!

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Unholy carries a naturally soft looking image that still keeps a good amount of detail. The bloodies effect, body trauma like slices and scarring come though gross and good. The image has that fluffy, glossy light kind of look to it. A lot of this is probably coming form the source, however this still looks better than average and is the best this film has ever looked.

Depth:  While there are some decent moments with dimensional work, there is a bit of flatness to the image. Characters move smoothly and cinematically. No real harm in fast movements bringing blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are solid and don’t really amp up the grain at all. Some good shadow work that doesn’t consume and eat details. no crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are a hair faded, but some gold filtered scenes really glisten. Purples, reds, blues and such are strong given the way the film itself looks.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and keep a consistent look/appearance throughout the duration of the film. Facial details surprisingly come in with good results, featuring sweat glistens, lip texture, make-up, scars and scuffs, stubble, wrinkles and more.

Noise/Artifacts: There is some grain present in the image.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: This track sounds pretty good, it gets out to a loud start with the opening credits but sort of tones it down right after and maintains that level of work to the end. Its got a nice loose and freeness between the score, vocals and effects. Of the three, the score probably sound the best of them. This won’t pulsate your viewing space, but its nice, lossless and will get the job taken care of.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and clean, plenty audible throughout. Just a hint, and barely a hint at that, of an analag sound.

Extras 

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, featuring isolated selections from his unused score.

Sins Of The Father (HD, 19:09) – With Ben Cross. While looking a little older, he definitely doesn’t look 30 years older. He opens about going to drama school and his studies, with no ambitions for Hollywood or film. Cross goes over the story of making the film from his point of view and his preparations and execution of the character as well as looking at its legacy over 30 years.

Demons In The Flesh” The Monsters Of “The Unholy” (HD, 22:26) – The make-up effects designers, accompanied by stills of the effects talk creature creation of the film. They go over feelings from the production based on the money and having trouble delivering.

Prayer Offerings (HD, 18:35) – With Production Designer & Co-writer Fernando Fonseca.  Beginning with his childhood as a weird kid, he quickly shifts gears to his meeting of Mathew Hayden. Fonseca goes over scriptwriting, scouting locations, the effectiveness of place. He goes over memories of cast members and gets pretty emotional in doing so at times. He talks the initial reviews and the fanbase, his surprise of it making it get to Blu-ray.

Original Ending Featuring Optional Audio Commentary With Producer Mathew Hayden (HD, 15:02)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:17)

TV Spots (HD, 2:15)

Radio Spots (HD, 2:25)

Original Storyboard Gallery (HD, 18:40)

Still Gallery (HD, 11:51)

Summary 

The Unholy is a solid little religious horror film with some effective nightmare sequences, old school practical effect work and a dash or eroticism.  Vestron Video’s new Blu-ray features a solid video transfer with some really good audio. What you’re really here for is the extras, and this one is pretty stacked with plenty that both are worhwhile and will keep you busy. This is definitely one for the vintage horror collector.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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