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Film / The Unholy

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The Unholy is a 2021 supernatural horror film based on the 1983 novel Shrine by James Herbert. It was the directorial debut of Evan Spiliotopoulos, who also wrote and produced the film alongside Sam Raimi. It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Katie Aselton, William Sadler, Diogo Morgado, Cricket Brown, and Cary Elwes.

The film follows the small town of Banfield, Massachusetts, where a journalist named Gerry Fenn (Morgan) finds a young woman named Alice Pagett (Brown) who, despite being deaf and mute all her life, suddenly can hear and speak, and claims to be able to see and hear the Virgin Mary. She goes around performing miracles, but suspicions begin to be raised when dark histories are uncovered regarding the town.


Tropes presented in the film:

  • Antagonist Title: Mary Elnor is the titular unholy.
  • Burn the Witch!: Mary Elnor, after being caught for her Satanism and crimes against the people, is hung and burned.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though Mary is stopped from damning countless innocents to Hell and is successfully destroyed, all of her miracles are taken back, such as young Toby Walsh becoming crippled again and Alice losing her hearing and speech again. Additionally, Father William Hagan and Monsignor Delgarde have still been killed. Gerry also got blacklisted in journalism after sacrificing his career to stop Mary Elnor and every single person who attended the Mass both in person and through the live stream began questioning their faith after learning of this revelation.
  • Black Boss Lady: Monica Slade (Christine Adams), Gerry's former editor whom he frequently contacts to get his old job back.
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  • Casting Gag: Monsignor Delgarde is played by Diogo Morgado, whose Star-Making Role is playing Jesus Christ.
  • Deal with the Devil: Mary Elnor made a deal with Satan for power and everlasting life, which she repaid by sending innocent souls to Hell.
  • Fake Faith Healer: Played with. Those who put their faith in "Mary" are in fact healed, but their faith is put into an imposter, and the imposter intends to damn their souls to Hell in exchange for their miracles.
  • Familial Body Snatcher: Mary's original plan was to achieve eternal life via living through her descendants, starting with her son and later Alice.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Non-fatal version. Gerry sacrifices his already shaky reputation as a journalist to cast doubt on the Banfield citizens over Mary Elnor's act to save them from her damnation. The Time Skip at the end shows he's blacklisted.
  • Immoral Journalist: Downplayed with Gerry. In his past, he fabricated several stories in order to profit from the fame, and was fired from his job. He tries to continue in this trend of exaggeration until he gets involved with Alice. Upon befriending her and working to stop Mary, he puts aside his job for the greater good.
  • One-Steve Limit: An important plot point. Mary Elnor easily passes herself as Virgin Mary by saying her first name alone because she's a supernatural entity that is invisible to humans.
  • Religious Horror: The film deals with questions of faith, and what damage can be done when a malevolent entity impersonates a religious figure.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Following her execution, Mary Elnor's soul is imprisoned within a kern doll, only released when the doll is broken.
  • Sexy Priest: Monsignor Delgarde, played by the Tall, Dark, and Handsome Diogo Morgado.
  • Sinister Minister: Bishop Gyles, who knows about Mary's true nature, but elects to do nothing about it for the sole purpose of bringing more people to The Church. It does not matter to him if the people who come are tricked and sentenced to Hell, he is simply concerned with the Church's reputation on Earth.