Unholy (2015)

Unholy is an independent film from Nottingham-based Mr Stitch, aka Anthony M. Winson.  We watched it for free on Amazon Prime.

I’d seen this offered on Prime before, but something about the trailer put me off.  The footage looked fairly lo-fi—I watched it on my phone, which can’t have helped—and the acting seemed a bit naff.  However, now I’ve taken the plunge, I can report that Unholy is an indie delight:  well-shot, well-directed, and built around a first-class performance by Kellie Goudie.

There’s nothing very original (or original at all) about the plot.  Newlyweds Margaret and Peter buy their dream home.  Hooray!  Once they move in, alarm bells start ringing.  For starters, it’s cheap—and the locals seem to know something about it.  For instance:  the estate agent sees (but doesn’t mention) a shadowy presence.  Next, when the heroes meet their new neighbours, the daughter is openly surprised that they plan to live there.  Once the action gets going, the mother admits to hearing stories about the house from the previous owner.

So, what’s going on?  For the bulk of the film, it’s very much the standard bag of tricks:  things moving by themselves; shadowy presences; apparitions; a séance.  However, if the meal is familiar, it’s cooked well and served on a nice plate.  Instead of getting bogged down in the history of the house, Unholy keeps the focus on the current owners’ predicament, which makes for compelling viewing.  Also, there are some genuine surprises in the final act, when the film tries to do things which should, by rights, be a step too far for the tiny budget.  It carries them off surprisingly well.

Overall, the film isn’t quite cinema quality, but it still looks nice and believable.  All the actors are “good enough” or better, and Kellie Goudie stands out as being fantastic.  She’s authentic and natural as Margaret, doing a superb range of emotions when the script needs them.  She’s a real asset, and her performance is the heart of the movie.

It isn’t a perfect “ten out of ten” for Unholy.  The first half of the movie, with Margaret isolated in the house, is definitely more effective.  As soon as her husband and friends accept the reality of the haunting, it becomes an ensemble piece, robbing Margaret of the limelight.  Also, a little mumbo-jumbo is used to move the plot along, which leads to a slight change in tone.  As you might expect, a medium gets involved to provide exposition (she’s helped in this by her loyal cameraman, who tags in to avoid monologues).  It’s not unusual to have a paranormal veteran brief the civilians, but even so, it’s a mild shame in the context of this film.  When Margaret invites people to “have a sniff” of an unexplained smell, or drunkenly blames a neighbour for moving things around, the film is grounded and believable.  Less so in these later scenes.

I’m pleased to say the movie rallies at the eleventh hour, serving up a thrilling climax.  So, although there was a bit of a minor dip, I had the goodwill to get through it and was amply rewarded on the other side.  Overall, it’s a great film and a solid recommendation from me.


About the author

My name is Ellis. When I’m not reviewing movies, I write short stories about ghosts. If you like getting scared in the woods, you might enjoy Deep Summer Magic, which is also available as a free audiobook.

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