I was lucky enough to be the child of several decades. I was born in the early 70′s, spent my formative years in the 80′s and turned 18 in 1993, which allowed me to misspend my young adulthood in the grunge and goth era.
This allows me to really enjoy a wide range of entertainment. I can enjoy Huey Lewis & the News or Nirvana (or Roy Orbison) pretty much equally. The TV creature features and the home video boom allowed me to experience the movies of the 30′s onward while the drive-in – which was still going strong in the 70′s and 80′s – gave me a taste for B movies.
What’s the point, you ask? Well, the 90′s had a very interesting, postmodern take on the horror film that really appealed to the movie buff in me. ‘Scream’ is a great example, launching a slasher renaissance that had the added benefit of the characters and the audience knowing the clichés and getting the in-jokes.
Another modern movie maverick is Quentin Tarantino. He worked in a video store in his younger days and, frankly, it shows. His entire career is built upon taking every obscure flick he ever saw and cranking it up a notch or ten.
I, too, worked in a video store back in the day. Not full-time (I was a radio DJ at the time) but as a favor for the owner, who was short-staffed. And I made it my business to steer anyone I could toward the (at the time) two ‘Prophecy’ movies.
Because nobody was doing ANYTHING like The Prophecy. The concept was fantastic, the look was groovy and the casting was top notch.
Now, I’ve referenced classic horror, slasher films, Tarantino and the cultural styles of three decades. How to bring them together? Watch this!
In 1995, the first in the series was released. It’s got all the bizarre, gothic atmosphere of the old-school supernatural monsters with the gore of the slashers. Much like Freddy personified a shift in the horror trend of the 70′s and early 80′s to a more occult and otherworldly vibe (Jason became a zombie and even Mike Myers turned out to be the pawn of a Satanic cult), The Prophecy was a huge departure from the cookie-cutter ‘Scream’ clones filling theaters at the time.
Then, they added a really neat twist.
The Devil, or at least devils, demons or evil spirits, have always been a huge part of horror. There is no greater villain in those parts of the world that are dominated by Judeo-Christian iconography. Even Freddy Krueger can’t handle holy water and ever since ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Omen’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, modern, jaded audiences have been just as scared of Satan as any medieval peasant.
But in THESE movies, the bad guys are angels.
That was, at the time, a crazy notion. Even now, the pop culture view of angels is kind of like a Hallmark card: a benevolent cherub who helps out and grants wishes.
But Gregory Widen, in developing his angel story, delved into an obscure source of angel lore known as the Bible.
Yes! Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s a bestseller, but apparently, not widely read. Despite the relative obscurity of this story, it became a great starting point for the development of the angels in these movies.
Here’s a quote from an angel sighting as described in the Bible:
1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the KebarRiver, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin–
3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the KebarRiver in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.
4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north–an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal,
5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man,
6 but each of them had four faces and four wings.
7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze.
8 Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings,
9 and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body.
12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.
13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it.
14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. Ezekiel 1: 1-14
Not what you picture, right? Also, there are no female angels in the Bible – compare that with those chintzy figurines old chicks have strewn about their parlors.
Here’s another great Biblical moment, when Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, meets an angel:
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15
In fact, the original title of The Prophecy was ‘God’s Army’.
Now, here are two quotes from the first film in the series, one from the hero, one from the villain:
Thomas Daggett: Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?
Gabriel: 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.
Yes, the big bad in the Prophecy films (well, the first three) is the archangel Gabriel, played to perfection by living legend Christopher Walken. Gabriel is usually depicted as a good guy by the Big Three Western belief systems, so that alone was bold. But the premise was BRILLIANT.
It breaks down like this: there is a second war in Heaven. The first war is the revolt of Lucifer, when the rebellious angels are cast into Hell because Lucifer aspired to God’s throne. Pretty straightforward; you got your good guys and your bad guys and it all works out. The second war is a bit more complicated…
See, Gabriel leads a new revolt out of envy. In the films, God elevates humans above angels, so that the jealous Gabriel refuses to accept a second place to what he calls ‘talking monkeys’.
So unlike Lucifer, who has set himself up as God’s enemy, Gabriel is basically a child acting out because he feels like his Father doesn’t love him anymore.
And he is willing to burn down Heaven to stop it – or kill every talking monkey crawling across the skin of this world.
Now, add to all that the acting chops Chris Walken brings to every role he plays – you get it? Yes! This is AWESOME.
So you got a soul, a very evil human soul, and the renegade angels want to recruit it for the war effort, while the loyal angels -and, interestingly, Lucifer – are trying to prevent this.
So, the Tarantino thing. Well, you got a LOT of ‘Pulp Fiction’ actors in this. Eric Stoltz, Walken, of course, and a few surprises (I’m not gonna give away the whole plot), aided and abetted by Elias Koteas (in a very convincing wig), Virginia Madsen (hot!) and many more. Plus, the angels all dress really cool. That alone is enough reason to watch. In fact, look at pretty much any movie from the 99′s with angels in it and you’ll find they inevitably dress alike: topcoat, a general Goth kinda vibe.
A movie this good, with this cast, well, a sequel was a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately.
I’d argue that ‘The Prophecy’ was a standalone movie that was never meant to have a sequel, much less four of them. But that’s the biz, sweetheart.
Three years later, we got ‘The Prophecy 2′. I actually like this movie a lot, once you get past the issues: neither Elias Koteas nor Viggo Mortensen reprised their roles, so their characters are quickly dismissed with the help of stand-ins, much like how they dealt with Patrick Swayze’s character in the third North and South miniseries (look it up).
But then, Walken does what he does best. This movie is built upon the strength of the initial premise and the greater strength of Walken as Gabriel. And I gotta say, he ROCKS. Also, Jennifer Beals, a lady people my age have lusted after since ‘Flashdance’, as the unwitting mother of a Nephilim, a half-human, half-angel offspring that Gabriel wants to use as a weapon in the endless Heaven War II. And I gotta give props to the late Brittany Murphy as Gabriel’s undead pawn in this one.
So this movie seemed like the end of the franchise. It seemed obvious that The Prophecy was over.
Two years later, we got 2000′s ‘The Prophecy 3: The Ascent’. This should be the weakest link in the series. But it has some strengths: one, Walken is back, albeit in a terrible, fake looking wig (he probably should have gone to Elias Koteas’ wigmaker). Two: a lot of nods to the first film. Three: well, there are only two.
In this entry, Gabriel is human and trying to reconcile with ‘The Boss’. He helps Danyael, the Nephilim from the last one, to end the war (apparently), while defeating Pyriel, another rogue angel.
What? I gotta talk about the other two movies? Oh, coitus.
If I were to sum up parts 4 and 5, I think I’d go with: don’t bother. None of the people who made the original series are involved in any way and, news flash, Kari Wuhrer is no substitute for Christopher Walken. Or Elias Koteas, for that matter. These movies totally missed the point and made stories about a magical book of prophecy – hey, that’s what they should call these! – and the demon Belial is trying to get his claws on it. It’s a devil as the villain again, a war between Heaven and Hell (and a potential new Hell) which is nowhere near as interesting as the God-loving angels of the original trilogy.
So that happened.
Anyway, to sum up, the first one is great, the second is good, the third is okay and that’s it. I will gladly recommend the first one, just as I did when I worked in that video store 15 or so years ago, and I will even suggest that the next two are enjoyable because they’re riding the coattails of the original. The other two don’t count, so don’t bother. But if you do, don’t blame me.
Still, these films play well with the biblical ideas and make you really fear the beating of angel wings.
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