Starring Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Eric Stoltz, Virginia Madsen, Viggo Mortensen
Directed by Gregory Widen
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
”I’m an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.”
No one delivers a line like Christopher Walken, and his portrayal of archangel Gabriel in 1995’s The Prophecy ranks among his all-time best performances. Every move is tinged with menace, his dialogue barbed with so much pent-up frustration that watching him immediately sets the viewer on edge (however playfully). Whether he’s sitting with a flock of children or slyly accosting our protagonist in a church pew, Gabriel seethes with anger and disdain for God’s “children”, his view being that the Lord loves these “talking monkeys” much more than the angels, and that’s the catalyst for an ongoing war in heaven that’s raged for centuries.
Into this mix falls a faithless detective (and would’ve been priest), Thomas Daggett (Elias Koteas), who stumbles across the aftermath of a messy angelic battle that left behind an otherworldly corpse. Daggett is drawn slowly into this struggle which also involves a school teacher (Virginia Madsen), a heroic angel (Eric Stoltz), an innocent little girl and the hunt for the blackest soul to ever infect a human vessel. It becomes a race against time to stop Gabriel from reaching his apocalyptic goal, leaving our human protagonists to contend with the seemingly impossible task of defeating one of God’s Army (the film’s original title).
The Prophecy is a forgotten slice of mid-1990s horror from writer/director Gregory Widen, and it often feels like a relic from a bygone era. It’s an adult-oriented thriller that doesn’t pander to its viewers or strive for the obnoxious teen audience that Hollywood has become obsessed with luring into cinemas every weekend. Instead, it offers a creative premise that packs so much mythology into 97 minutes that its biggest criticism is that it often feels a tad rushed. All three acts might’ve benefited from a better meld of character and exposition as Widen has a tendency to gloss over rather large chunks of important plot in mere passing. The goal of our antagonist is clear, but some of the “rules” for earthbound angels are not: We can deduce why these heavenly killers need human “slaves”, but it’s an intriguing idea that might’ve been explored with a bit more depth.
But Widen’s story works. It’s understandable for some to have skepticism for a movie so heavily anchored in religious mythology, but The Prophecy is never preachy. It works as a full-on fantasy or, should one be so inclined, as an incredibly fun Biblical ‘what if’. Either way, the dialogue is great (nearly every line that passes Walken’s lips is quotable), characters are compelling (Daggett’s question of faith makes him a flawed but compelling hero) and performances are stellar (is there a better screen Lucifer than Viggo Mortensen?). These elements gel together so perfectly that it’s hard to understand why this never caught on in theaters in the fall of 1995. Gregory Widen wrote the original Highlander nearly ten years before directing this. Considering his proclivity for creating vast and compelling mythologies, it’s a shame he hasn’t written or directed anything since.
It’s true that The Prophecy has its flaws and that the scope of its story is perhaps beyond the allotted budget. But damn if it doesn’t hold up as one of the best examples of genre filmmaking in the 1990s. Smart, entertaining and with an all-star cast of incredibly talented people, it’s a film worthy of rediscovery.
Being such a fan of The Prophecy, my fingers were crossed when I heard Echo Bridge was sending this disc my way. My old DVD is a non-anamorphic eyesore (almost unwatchable by today’s standards) so nearly any improvement would be welcome. Unfortunately, the improvement in visual quality is a marginal one. The transfer is correctly displayed in 2.35:1 (despite the fact that the back of the box claims 1.78:1), but it’s a largely bland transfer that looks less like high definition and more like a DVD upconvert. There’s just not much depth here, and details fall incredibly flat. The image is certainly more stable than Dimension’s old DVD (and it’s anamorphic to boot – so no more windowboxed viewings!), but this doesn’t often look or feel like HD. Colors are weak, and blacks are grey. If this were DVD, I’d be a little more forgiving of this title as this really is the only decent home video presentation of The Prophecy. But as a Blu-ray this is far from a success.
The audio fares better. The English 5.1 DTS track has nice channel separation with music sounding fairly textured (especially the ethereal church music) and dialogue remaining clear (if a bit soft) at all times. The bass is active during action sequences although it doesn’t receive much of a workout overall. Technically speaking, Echo Bridge outfits The Prophecy with a solid audio presentation. It’s just a shame the video couldn’t have matched.
My prayers for a special edition continue to go unanswered as there are no extras to be found, a shame considering some bootleg cuts offer an alternate opening and other cut material. This means we’re judging this product on the quality of the film (quite high) and the A/V of the disc (good to fair). If you’re like me and the lack of an anamorphic version of this film has eaten away at you for years, then rejoice! Those strictly looking to upgrade to a high quality Blu-ray may want to give this one a rent before taking the purchase plunge, however. I wish this disc looked better, Echo Bridge. This is one film that truly deserves the royal treatment.
4 out of 5
0 out of 5