BARE BONES: THE UNHOLY (2021)

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THE UNHOLY (2021)

Religious themed horror finds down on his luck reporter Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), now covering Weekly World News level stories. While in the small rural town of Banfield, Massachusetts, investigating an obvious hoax, Fenn encounters young deaf/mute Alice (Cricket Brown), who can now hear and speak, and who credits The Virgin Mary herself for her miraculous healing. As Alice is now accomplishing miracles of her own, Fenn’s research uncovers that something far more malevolent may be responsible for these “divine” occurrences and Fenn himself may be the one that unleashed it.

Flick is directed in by-the-numbers fashion by Evan Spiliotopoulos, from his screenplay, based on the book Shrine by James Herbert. It is a dull and routine flick that never makes any attempt to add a little mystery as to whether these miracles are divine or demonic. We know from the first scene with Fenn that something evil has been unleashed and that religious leaders, including local priest Father Hagan (William Sadler) and the church’s Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes) are being just as bamboozled as innocent Alice. There are no scares, the FX are obvious ho-hum CGI creations and the characters that populate this generic story are all stereotypical of such a tale…as are the events and finale just as predictable. A familiar and forgettable horror with a cast that deserved much better.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019)

 

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019)

Remake, or re-imagining takes place on a college campus at Christmas break. The MKE sorority girls put on a controversial Christmas show at the DKO fraternity, calling out an alumni for his rape of sorority member Riley (Imogen Poots). Soon the ladies of MKE and other sororities, start to fall one by one, as a group of hooded and masked killers stalk them across campus.

Flick is directed by Sophia Takal from her script, co-written by April Wolfe. In the age of #MeToo the film faces the issue of sexual abuses on college campuses head on, as well as, the disbelief and stigma that falls on the accuser instead of the accused. In this aspect, the film achieves it’s goals. It’s so busy with it’s messages, though, that it almost forgets to be a horror film. It takes almost an hour for the flick to really get going and the kills are mostly offscreen, muting their impact. Aside from being set in a sorority and a few scattered elements, it doesn’t really follow the 1974 original, or the previous 2006 remake. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t really do too much new with the stalker premise, either. On a horror film level, it’s derivative, despite adding a supernatural element to it’s story not present in the other versions. It’s climax is a bit overblown and it’s at that point where the film’s message starts to become sledgehammered, when the flick already made it’s point so well in the first half. Also, if there is a supernatural element controlling certain individuals, are they really to blame for their actions and deserved of their fates? Wouldn’t it have served the story’s point better if they were simply misogynist a-holes and not in a black magic thrall? The cast are fine, especially Poots as the emotionally wounded Riley. Veteran actor Cary Elwes, as a douchey professor, does overdo it a bit. He practically has a neon sign saying “bad guy” floating over his head the entire movie. There are some nice nods to the original like the address of a sorority being “1974”, the year the first Black Christmas was released and it does have a few intense moments. Overall, It’s a film that delivers it’s messages, sometimes with a heavy hand, but boldly straight on. Unfortunately, though, it skimps somewhat on being an actual horror flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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