Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blu-ray Review: THE PROPHECY (1995)


THE PROPHECY (1995)

Label: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 97 mins
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dolby Digital 5.1, LPCM 2.0
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Gregory Widen
Cast: Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stolz, Amanda Plummer, Viggo Mortensen
Tagline: Marked By Fate. Doomed By Prophecy... Time Is Running Out For Mankind.

I don't think the 1990's are exactly remembered for standout genre film fare but in actuality there were quite a few truly great films, they've just been forgotten under a heap of crap nineties SCREAM clones and shitty sequels.  I mean we had JACOB'S LADDER (1990), THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991), DEAD ALIVE (1992), ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992), CANDYMAN (1992), CEMETERY MAN (1994) and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1990). Sure, some of these verge on thrillers and not so much pure horror I think we can agree they're pretty great, no? Let's add to this venerable list a film that seems to have slipped by the wayside - THE PROPHECY (1995), fine horror-thriller that is just not mentioned nearly enough for my tastes, this is a gem of a genre film that's been given short shrift and undeservedly so.

The film's prologue begins with Tomas Dagget (Elias Koteas, LET ME IN) on the cusp of becoming an ordained priest when he is overcome with disturbing images of angels slaughtering each other, the horrific vision costs him his faith and he leaves the order to become L.A. detective. While investigating a strange homicide Dagget encounters Simon (Eric Stoltz, PULP FICTION), who claims to be a fallen angel, warning Dagget that a stalemated civil war amongst the Angels rages on in Heaven and that the fate of the life eternal hangs in the balance. Dagget further investigates the strange homicide which takes him to Arizona and on a journey that will test his languished faith. The Archangel Gabriel (Christopher Walken, MCBAIN) is a key figure fueling the war in Heaven, it would seem the Angel has grown jealous of God's love for the "talking monkeys" on Earth and he come to Earth in search of an evil soul which is to lead his army against the Lord in Heaven.

When a young girl named Mary becomes a pawn in the battle between the Angels her school teacher Katherine (Virginia Madsen, CANDYMAN) is also drawn into the Angelic war alongside Simon and Dagget. Adam Goldberg (DAZED AND CONFUSED) appears as a would-be suicide victim named Jerry whom was stopped from dying by Gabriel and has in effect become his undead chauffeur on Earth, it's a fun role and later in the film Amanda Plummer (NEEDFUL THINGS) assumes the mantle when Jerry is dispatched, much to his own happiness, the relationship between Gabriel and his familiars is laced with dark humor, it's fun stuff.

While Mary suffers what appears to be a possession of sorts she is given an exorcism by Native Americans as our heroes battle the Archangel, during the conflict who should appear but Lucifer himself, played with Devilish delight by Vigo Mortensen (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE), a mischievous tempter whispering sweet blasphemy into the ears of our protagonists. Of course Old Scratch has a stake in the Heavenly civil war however his motivations turns out to not be quite as apparent as one might think, that Satan sure is a sneaky sort of fellow.

THE PROPHECY is a pretty great film, it's well-paced, the some nice action set-pieces, the cast is top-notch and there's some decent practical effects work and haunting imagery. It's great to see Walken, Plummer and Stoltz reunited after their turn in Quentin Tarantino's PULP FICTION just a year prior with my favorite performance coming from Walken as the seething Archangel, so disgusted by the talking monkies that have won the love of the Lord, it's rife with dark comedy and vitriol, it's fucking awesome. If I have to leverage a complaint I would say the film needed to run at least 120 minutes, the scope of the story outreached the film's breadth in my opinion. I easily could have  gone another half-hour with this story without a fuss, I was left wanting more and that's a good thing. I have yet to check out the sequels and would love to hear what you think about the film, it's sequels and your favorite 90's horror films.

Blu-ray: Previous DVD editions of the film were non-anamorphic presentations so I give a big thumbs up to Echo Bridge for the 16:9 widescreen (2.35:1) transfer though the box art erroneously advertises 1.78:1. Appropriate aspect aspect ratio aside the transfer is not very dynamic and lacks fine detail, clarity, vibrancy and depth.

The disc offers English language 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options with no subtitles. The 5.1 DTS offers some decent channel separation with dialogue, effects and the impressively textured score from David C. William (CRITTER 3) coming through rather nicely if not exactly giving the home theatre system a substantial workout. There is no subtitles option on the disc. Pretty typical of the Echo Bridge blu-rays there are no special features, not even a theatrical trailer. 

Verdict: If you haven't caught up with THE PROPHECY yet I say treat yourself, it's a wonderful thing and a true gem of the mid-90's genre filmmaking, it's smart, action-packed and entertaining. The recent film LEGION attempted something similar and failed quite miserably in my opinion. Quite the opposite THE PROPHECY is a faith testing supernatural-thriller that's definitely worth a watch. 3.5 outta 5

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