Directed by: Camilo Vila
Run time: 102 minutes
The Lowdown: A horny demon from Hell walks into a church…
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
No, seriously. Have you heard this one before? Because up until about a week ago, neither had we, and now all I can think is how in the hell did BVB never see The Unholy back when it was released in the late 1980s?
Arriving as part of the Vestron Video Collector's Series, The Unholy literally must be experienced to truly know its majesty.
It’s like Hellraiser and The Exorcist got together for drinks, went in the alley to get busy and left this swaddled bundle of brimstone and gothic sex swagger to mature on its own, alone in the wild.
The Unholy is one of those special films that charges right out of the gate with some gory naked demon action before throttling back long enough to establish its core characters.
There’s Father Michael, a stoic Ben Cross, doing his best to resist and refute the Devil at all costs.
There’s Trevor Howard (an Oscar winner) playing Father Silva, the blind but all-knowing priest who tries mightily to enlist Father Michael in the ages-old fight against evil.
There’s Millie, the comely, virginal waitress, doing her best to resist the allure and enticement of Luke, the owner/operator of a local goth-fetish club, who keeps having crazy demonic happenings every night in his totally-80’s art-deco meets The Addams Family apartment.
The Unholy has everything you can want from a horror film:
Gratuitous nudity, most of it featuring the ridiculously hot Nicole Fortier, who plays the titular demon in human form. She clearly doesn’t like clothes, but boy howdy, she loves a man of the cloth.
Awesome dialogue, courtesy of another Oscar winner, Philip Yordan (1955’s Broken Lance), and Fernando Fonseca, including this sample:
Father Michael: Millie, this is superstitious nonsense.
Millie: (reading from an ancient religious tome) There’s more. One of the strongest demons is so evil, it’s known as the Unholy.
Father Michael: Millie!
Millie: Just listen to me! The Unholy can remain on earth out of hell so long as no one resists its temptations. The Unholy kills the sinner in the act of sinning and sends another soul to hell. The Unholy thrives on purity, on priests and virgins.
Father Michael: Millie, this is garbage.
Millie: Don’t you see, Father? I’m a virgin. I never let another man touch me. You’ve got to help me. Father, please.
Father Michael: Millie, don’t!
Father Michael: Don’t!
Millie: Father, please make love to me!
It’s not until the last half-hour, though, that The Unholy realizes its true potential and unleashes a blistering smorgasbord of psychedelic imagery, animatronic demons and more as Father Michael finally grows some cojones and conjures the demon for battle.
First, he has to refuse the charms of the naked demon in human form. Then he has to contend with a slobbering, horny hell-beast that straddles his lap and tries to make sweet, sweet damnation love to his frazzled faith.
It’s truly a remarkable sequence – and, it should be noted, the best sequence in the entire film – that almost didn’t make the final cut.
Included in the special features is the original ending, which featured a lot less demonic sex play, more of a traditional, straight exorcism and a completely different hell-beast.
Personally, I prefer the over-the-top sequence with its whirring mish-mash of violent imagery and gloopy practical special effects, but some fans may find the original a better fit.
This is the first time The Unholy has appeared in high-definition, and it’s a must-have for every horror enthusiast’s collection.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Oh yes!
Nudity – Gratuitous.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Demons, baby, demons.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
CHiPs (Warner Bros., 101 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): How many TV shows from the late 1970s and early 1980s really deserve to be reimagined as a feature-length film?
Better yet, how many such vehicles have actually made a profit when reformatted into a big Hollywood production?
At some point, someone somewhere surely must put a stop to this madness, if only because of all the money lost.
Until that happens, we will have to suffer through more middling and misguided exercises as CHiPs.
As a feature film, CHiPs doesn’t even try to capture the spirit of the original television show, which lasted six seasons from 1978 to 1983 and starred Erik Estrada as California Highway Patrol Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Larry Wilcox as his partner, Officer Jon Baker.
Writer-director Dax Shepard seems completely lost as to how to convert two beloved characters from a bygone era into the believable leads of a modern-day action-comedy.
CHiPs is painfully unfunny, overly homophobic and prone to unnecessarily weird and queasy subplots that seem designed to do nothing but eat up as much screen time as possible.
Shepard plays Jon Baker, only here he’s a successful Motocross star who enlists with the highway patrol in a desperate bid to save his loveless marriage, regardless that his body is basically broken from years of devastating crashes and broken bones. He’s goofy, naïve and prone to over-sharing personal information while dry-chewing painkillers like candy.
Michael Peña is Ponch, a federal agent from Miami who goes undercover with the CHP to identify a gang of rogue officers committing highway robberies. He’s over-confident, smugly off-putting and a sex addict, which means that he habitually masturbates throughout the day.
Are you laughing yet?
Peña is actually very funny, but his character seems to have parachuted in from a completely different film. Shepard just looks frazzled throughout. And Vincent D'Onofrio, as the leader of the bad cops, has basically reached that point in his career where he will take any role in any project just to keep working.
We made it through just over an hour of flat jokes, unnecessary full-frontal male nudity and random explosions.
If there’s a silver lining to be found, at least it wasn’t a big-screen version of B.J. and the Bear.
Death Line: Collector’s Edition (Blue Underground, 87 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Cannibals – you can never go wrong with cannibals, especially a subterranean flesh-eater stalking the underground rail network beneath London.
Death Line, originally released in the U.S. as Raw Meat, was the first feature from director Gary Sherman, who would later give us Dead & Buried (fantastic zombie flick), Vice Squad (pure drive-in pulp) and Wanted: Dead or Alive (a little-known, but solid late ‘80s actioner starring Rutger Hauer).
Featuring a fantastic lead performance by Donald Pleasence , years before he became Dr. Loomis, Death Line is a collector’s edition that deserves to be on your shelf.
The Pink Panther Film Collection
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Snatchers (Stage 13, 56 minutes, Unrated, VOD): Who says boys get to have all the fun?
In Snatchers, the first scripted series from Stage 13, the digital content brand for Warner Bros., boys play second-fiddle to two smart, feisty and fresh-mouthed young women who must reconcile past differences in order to defeat an unlikely nemesis.
First things first, Snatchers is hysterically funny. The one-liners and asides fly fast and furious, and most, if not all, land with laser-guided precision.
Sara Steinberg (a wonderfully droll Mary Nepi) is a high school student trying to maintain her social status. Her on-and-off-again guy crush, Skyler, has just returned from vacation in Mexico. Though Sara had been steadfast in her decision to remain chaste, she decides on a whim one night to go the distance with Skyler.
The next morning, however, she wakes up pregnant – nine months pregnant – and has nowhere to turn but to Hayley Chamberlain (Gabrielle Elyse), her former BFF who slowly fell down Sara’s social hierarchy, as is commonplace in high school. Hayley is the brains of the pair, and Sara knows she needs help fast to keep her sudden pregnancy secret from her mother.
The chemistry between Nepi and Elyse is pure comic gold, but it’s the writing by series creators Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman and Scott Yacyshyn that truly elevates Snatchers to must-see viewing.
“This better be the last time I see that butthole tonight,” Hayley sternly warns Sara just before re-examining her to see whether Sara’s water broke.
“I just can’t Juno around town with this thing!” Sara proclaims at one point, pointing at her distended belly.
“That thing came T-shirt cannoning out of her vagina!” a frantic Hayley tells law enforcement.
That “thing,” which the girls dub the ‘Mexican pregnancy monster,’ is an alien lifeform capable of attaching itself externally to the spine of a human host, and all it wants is to consume Sara in order to release a second monster embryo inside her.
Cedars, Kleiman and Yacyshyn have created a wonderfully twisted universe populated by relatable teenagers and clueless adults. Their dialogue is razor sharp, the action is fast-paced and the practical special effects are gory, gruesome and grin-inducing.
Snatchers also is not your typical series. The first season is just eight episodes, each running about seven minutes. It’s designed for people to watch on their smart devices through Verizon’s go90 streaming service, which launched in 2015 and offers exclusive and streaming content for personal, mobile devices.
The Verizon go90 mobile is free to download, and episodes also can be watched online for free at go90.com.
Snatchers comes highly recommended. We can’t wait to see what happens in season two.
Altar (Movie Heroes Studio/Distribber, 84 minutes, Unrated, VOD): If you have yet to find a ‘found footage’ film to your liking, odds are Altar won’t change your mind.
The new film by writer-director-producer Matthew Sconce can’t avoid the pitfalls that undermine most new ‘found footage’ films, and demonstrates how difficult it is to master this tricky subgenre
That doesn’t mean it’s a terrible film, by any means. It just means it’s a problematic picture.
Altar has two things going for it: Lead actress Stefanie Estes is terrific as Maisy Marks, a young woman attending a college reunion and trying to help socialize her brother Bo, who appears to be suffering from Asperger syndrome. As a defense mechanism, Bo films everything, preferring to hide behind the camera while experiencing life.
The other positive is that the core setup – the actual altar in Altar – is pretty creepy, particularly with its weird blue-glowing crystals that mark the path leading up to the ceremonial column.
If Sconce had spent more time exploring the nature of the altar, or featured it more prominently throughout his film, that might have been enough to allow casual viewers to overlook the movie’s other, noticeable flaws. But Sconce doesn’t provide any backstory or context, despite opening Altar with a different couple stumbling across the titular relic in the woods, who then meet a grisly fate.
Sconce doesn’t seem interested in explaining much. There’s a creepy tattooed and bald henchman who seems to be the protector of the altar who appears randomly throughout the movie to warn Maisy and her friends, as well as the couple in the opening sequence, to stay out of the woods. Who is he? What is he? You never find out, which is a shame.
In fact, for a movie that’s not even 90 minutes long, very little actually happens for the first 50 minutes or so, outside of a bunch of talking, bickering and some haphazard attempts to delve a little deeper into Bo’s autism spectrum disorder.
That’s way too long in a found-footage film to leave viewers waiting and wanting some action to justify the time they’ve spent thus far.
And it’s not like Sconce is lacking for opportunities. He completely ignores the chance to up the creepy ante after the altar is first disturbed, and it appears that a spectral female spirit or demon might have been freed. The best moment in the entire film focuses on this woman, who is only identified as ‘Evil Spirit’ in the credits.
Altar isn’t a waste of time, but it also is not the best use of time, depending on your viewing likes and habits.