ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 7, 1995
By Steve Newton
Highlander and Backdraft screenwriter Gregory Widen forgot one very important thing when he set about making his directorial debut with the supernatural horror flick The Prophecy. He forgot that when people are watching movies depicting the supreme struggle between good and evil—heaven and hell, Christ and Satan, that kinda thing—they want to take it seriously. Were there laughs aplenty in The Exorcist? Choice chuckles in The Omen?
So why does Widen insist on hampering his potentially terrifying entry in the Satanic sweepstakes with smart-ass asides and witty one-liners? Looks like he’s seen way too many Freddy Krueger flicks.
The Prophecy—originally called God’s Army before copying the title of John Frankenheimer’s laughable mutated-creature flick of ’79—starts off promisingly enough. In an intense and foreboding opening scene, neophyte priest Thomas Daggett (young Robert De Niro look-alike Elias Koteas) is rocked by an attack of puzzling and horrific visions at the altar during his ordination, which leads him to abandon his calling. Years later, as a homicide detective, Daggett is visited by good renegade angel Simon (Jesus Christ look-alike Eric Stoltz), who perches gargoylelike on a chair and waxes prophetically to the bewildered cop.
After Simon wins a violent battle with a bad renegade angel (shades of Highlander), Dagget gets called in on the grisly case because a book on angels that he wrote as a seminarian is part of the evidence left at the crime scene.
After an autopsy of the bad angel’s brutalized body reveals its unearthly nature—no eye tissue, for starters—as well as an ancient bible with a chapter never known to exist, Daggett begins to suspect that something weird is going on. Soon enough, archangel Gabriel shows up in the form of prime marketing point Christopher Walken, who enlists a suicide-dead youth (Adam Goldberg) he keeps animated (i.e., suspended in purgatory) in order to drive him around and be the butt of endless insults.
Gabriel has arrived on earth to track down the dark soul of a recently deceased army colonel who did some very naughty things—and left a crateful of human faces to prove it. It’s with this particularly wicked soul as ammo that Gabe figures he can turn the tide of an ongoing war between heaven’s angels.
Or something like that.
Surprisingly, the appearance of perennial film weirdo Walken in slicked-back raven hair actually marks the point where The Prophecy begins to slow down and deteriorate. More concerned with garnering giggles than eliciting fear, this immortal enemy of humankind can start raging fires with a snap of his fingers and knock people out with a whispered “shhh”, yet when Daggett gets in the way of his soul-searching, Gabriel skips the supernatural stuff in favour of WWF-style wrasslin’.
Beautiful but synthetic Virginia Madsen re-enacts her one-note performance from Candyman as a midriff-baring schoolteacher who helps protect the Navajo girl who has been host to the colonel’s soul ever since Simon exhaled it into her for safekeeping. That spirit is so nasty that it makes the wee one vomit after it’s ingested, but having “the most ruthless military man in existence” in your tummy comes in handy when Daggett needs pointers on setting up defensive positions for the desert showdown with ghostly Gabe.
Gimme a break!
Give yourself a break, too, and put any cash you were considering blowing on The Prophecy toward a rental of David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone. Now that’s a Chris Walken horror flick you can take seriously—and not feel embarrassed about, either.