(director/writer: Evan Spiliotopoulos; screenwriter: based on the book Shrine, by James Herbert; cinematographer: Craig Wrobleski; editor: Jake York music: Joseph Bishara; cast: Cricket Brown (Alice), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Gerry Fenn), Cary Elwes (Bishop Gyles), William Sadler (Father Hagan), Katie Aselton (Dr. Natalie Gates), Christine Adams (Monica Slade), Diogo Morgado (Monsignor Delgarde), Celeste Oliva (Librarian), Marina Mazepa (Mary Elnor); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Evan Spiliotopoulos; Sony/A Seven Gems Release; 2021)

“Uneven and unexciting but watchable religious horror pic.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Evan Spiliotopoulos makes his feature film directing debut with this uneven and unexciting but watchable religious horror pic. He adapts it from the “Shrine,” a 1983 novel by James Herbert.

Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a once famous reporter disgraced for fabricating stories and being a lush. He believes he stumbled upon a miracle in a small New England town (Bannfield, Mass.), where the hearing-impaired young woman named Alice (Cricket Brown) is cured after receiving visitations from the Virgin Mary while conversing with a petrified tree trunk (on the grounds of the local Catholic Church, where she’s the ward of her uncle, Father Hagen–William Sadler). Alice then turns her attention on miraculously healing the sick in need of her services, as crowds flock to her as word of her feats spread.

While investigating this miracle, sensing a good story to revive his career, the always cynical Fenn is startled by the sudden occurrence of terrifying events, as he starts to believe maybe a sinister force is behind it and not the Virgin Mary.

The once skeptical Father Hagan (William Sadler) is miraculously cured by Alice of his emphysema and becomes a true believer, while the bishop (Cary Elwes) is amazed at her healing powers and has Rome send over the young Inquisitor Monsignor Delgarde (Diego Morgado) to see if this is another Lourdes tale or not.

Baffled by the mystery, Fenn befriends the local know-it-all doctor (Katie Aselton), and sets out to prove if we’re dealing with an evil entity or if he’s to sell his soul by not telling the truth and run with the story the public wants to believe to revive his dying career on a lie.

Too bad the visuals were so shoddy, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the right guy for such a dubious part.

Cricket Brown in “The Unholy.”