Satan is at it again in “The Unholy,” the first feature from Evan Spiliotopoulos and what feels like the millionth recurrence of a plot that turns an innocent young woman into the plaything of a soul-sucking demon.
After a brief spasm of 1845 witchery, the movie jumps to present-day New England where the roguish reporter Gerry Fenn (who better than Jeffrey Dean Morgan?) is sniffing out supernatural mischief. Once famous and now disgraced for fabricating stories, Fenn enjoys the odd tipple: It helps alleviate the professional embarrassment of covering livestock mutilations. But when he encounters Alice (Cricket Brown) — a hearing-impaired woman who’s mysteriously cured after conversing with a petrified tree trunk — Fenn smells the kind of story that could resurrect his career.
Unfortunately, that’s not what’s revived as Alice, believing she sees the Virgin Mary, begins to heal the sick and attract a horde of supplicants. Her uncle (William Sadler) is skeptical until she cures his emphysema, and the nearest bishop (an unrecognizable Cary Elwes) is flummoxed by Alice’s apparent miracles. Fenn, meantime, works on an exclusive (as a dissolute nonbeliever, he’s presumed objective) and gets friendly with a nice doctor (Katie Aselton). Even Fenn needs a break from the stress of the supernatural.
Adapted from a 1983 novel by James Herbert, “The Unholy” (no relation to Camilo Vila’s 1988 dud) gives us the usual weeping statues and a soundtrack heaving with crackles and whispers. Playing the evil entity with convulsive movements and a killer manicure, the contortionist Marina Mazepa turns in the movie’s most entertaining performance. That’s if you don’t count Morgan looking genuinely baffled as to what he’s doing here at all.
Rated PG-13 for a hanged man and half-baked scares. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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