In THE UNHOLY, Alice (Cricket Brown), a young hearing-impaired girl who, after a supposed visitation from the Virgin Mary, is inexplicably able to hear, speak and heal the sick. As word spreads and people from near and far flock to witness her miracles, a disgraced journalist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hoping to revive his career visits the small New England town to investigate. When terrifying events begin to happen all around, he starts to question if these phenomena are the works of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister.
For the release of THE UNHOLY, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to chat with newcomer Cricket Brown about the supernatural horror film. During our chat, we discussed everything from how her theater background helped prepare her for the role, the terror of having one’s body be an unholy space, and more!
Hi Cricket, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today! Congratulations on your first feature film! What attracted you to the role of Alice?
Cricket Brown: It’s a crazy film. I have to admit I wasn’t big on the horror genre, it’s been something that I was afraid of a lot of my life, but when I auditioned for [THE UNHOLY], I knew that these were circumstances as an actor that I don’t think I could ever do outside of this script, outside of this context. There was a lot to look forward to just off of the first read of the script that excited me as an actor.
When I was talking with Director Evan Spiliotopoulos, he had mentioned that you come from a theater background. How did that help you prepare for this experience?
Cricket Brown: I definitely feel like I had to utilize a lot of film techniques on this set. The way that I was seeing theater showing up in my DNA was pushing through a take. In theater, you can’t say, “Aw, I messed up, let’s go again” and make a big deal when something goes wrong. A lot of times I felt if something was going wrong, I would kind of get to the end of the scene, get to cut, before I would stop, which is something that not a lot of film actors do. I think they stop and reset at the moment. It was economical, but I’m learning the kind of agency you have on a set with takes that are very different from theater. [Theater] also helped me with a lot of fear in terms of needing to perform things in front of a lot of extras or a larger crew. I noticed myself needing to translate it to an audience because it’s vulnerable. So that was something that theater also helped implement.
Shortly after the viewer meets Alice, they learn that she’s hearing impaired; however, once Mary takes hold of her everything changes. That said, were you familiar with ASL prior to filming or did you learn it specifically for this role?
Cricket Brown: I learned it for the role, and I wished I learned more. There are only two really brief moments where we see Alice speaking with ASL, she’s healed rather quickly in the film. So it was just actually a few Zoom sessions with an ASL coach and also a lot of YouTube, a lot of internet searching of people in the deaf community and people that speak with ASL, just watching them to see how naturally it comes out of the body. Because when you’re learning it can look quite stiff, so it was a lot of watching and then just learning the few bits of sentences that my character had.
What was the most enjoyable part about filming this movie and was there anything about the film that was specifically terrifying for you?
Cricket Brown: I think through the context of my character, that’s to me where the fear lies. The fact that my body becomes an unsafe, unholy space. So to me, that’s actually a lot scarier than any kind of flash or jump, this kind of inner manipulation. That to me was really intriguing, that to me felt very actually not horror genre, but very drama, so that was really interesting. My favorite thing about being an actor is meeting actors. I just think actors and filmmakers are really amazing, interesting people. Getting to go to work and watching someone like Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Cary Elwes or Katie Aselton was really wild. To watch these veteran actors in front of me was definitely my favorite part too.
Do you think now that you’ve done THE UNHOLY it’ll help segue you into watching more horror?
Cricket Brown: Absolutely! I have gotten back into horror as I’ve gotten older and there are new kinds of contemporary horror films and makers that are really incredible to me. When I was getting ready for the film in preproduction, Evan had sent me a nice long list of older classic horror films, so I do feel a lot more versed in the genre now and do really appreciate it.
THE UNHOLY is now in theaters. This film is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for violent content, terror, and some strong language.
Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.