Homepage > Joss Whedon Cast > Nicholas Brendon > Reviews > Nicholas Brendon - "Unholy" Movie - Reel.com Review
« Previous : Marsters, Landau, Rohm and Feinberg Q&A from 2007 Dragon*Con - Listen The Podcast
     Next : Summer Glau - 2007 Fox TV network All-Star party - High Quality Photos 3 »


Nicholas Brendon

Nicholas Brendon - "Unholy" Movie - Reel.com Review

Jim Hemphill

Thursday 6 September 2007, by Webmaster

Unholy may be a first in the world of straight-to-video horror: a film that not only gets better on second viewing but actually requires it. Sam Freeman’s ingenious script lays the groundwork for one of those rare and unusual movies that contains a twist that is simultaneously completely surprising and quite plausible—the movie shifts gears in the final act in such a way that the audience is forced to reevaluate everything that has come before, and viewers who take the time to revisit the movie from the beginning will be amply rewarded thanks to Freeman’s brilliant story construction and director Daryl Goldberg’s subtle execution. Goldberg lays in so many clever visual clues that on second viewing the solution to the mystery seems obvious, but anyone who tells you they saw it coming the first time around is either a genius or a liar.

Unholy kicks off with one of the best openings in any horror movie this year: mom (Adrienne Barbeau) comes home to find her daughter aiming a gun at herself, and despite Barbeau’s pleas, the girl blows her own head off just after cryptically warning "beware the experiment." This sends Barbeau and her son (played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon) on a quest to solve the mystery of their loved one’s death, a journey that leads to the discovery of bizarre government experiments in time travel, invisibility, and mind control. Encapsulating Unholy, which also involves supernatural phenomena linked to a connection between the U.S. intelligence community and Nazi Germany, is extremely difficult, but not because the film is confusing or clumsily put together. To the contrary, Freeman and Goldberg’s command of their material is total, and watching the movie from the beginning it becomes clear that even moments that initially seem vague have purpose and meaning. The reason that it’s hard to synopsize Unholy is simply that it’s so original; I’ve been watching horror movies obsessively my entire life, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Unholy’s originality is all the more impressive given its low budget, but director Goldberg is smart enough to focus on things that aren’t cost-dependent. For example, it doesn’t necessarily have to cost more money to have great writing and acting than bad, and Unholy succeeds terrifically on both scores. Acting in a movie like this is a tricky business, since it requires playing a character so that the behavior can be read two ways—one way on first viewing, and another on the second. It’s a testament to Barbeau and the other performers that they manage to pull it off beautifully, and without playing any false or dishonest notes. The movie delivers the goods for horror fans on the lower end of the IQ scale (there’s plenty of gooey blood and gore, all of it motivated by the story rather than any gratuitous impulse), but it’s also genuinely intelligent and unabashedly emotional—it’s a horror film made for thinking adults but not limited to them. Freeman and Goldberg contribute a funny, self-effacing but informative commentary track on the DVD, which gives the viewer yet another excuse to return to this immensely satisfying discovery—not that Unholy needs any such excuse, since its expert writing, direction, and acting provide their own justification for looking at the film again and again.