The Prophecy – Gregory Widen – 1995

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Is Angelsploitation a word? If it was it might include Kevin Smith’s Dogma, William Dear’s Angels In The Outfield, and Gregory Widen’s horror series The Prophecy. Based very loosely on Christian mythology, The Prophecy is the tale of Thomas, a former priest turned police detective who stumbles onto a corrupt angel’s plan to bring about the revelation.

The film is atmospheric and dusty like many mid nineties thrillers, but what really sets this film apart from many of those desert mysteries is its full on committal to being a horror film. There are many great horror pieces in the film, including an eyeless angelic corpse being set aflame, a flashback to an angel war complete with angel slaughter and Viggo Mortensen as the devil (!) along with some creepy little goblin underling. Overall there is great horrific imagery throughout.

The plot is a bit convoluted, and involves the passing of the evilest mans soul being passed around from mouth to mouth. One can view this film in a way as a sequel to Apocalypse Now, in that the man portrayed to be the worst of all men is a horrible man who had a death cult built around him during his service oversees. The guy is practically Kurtz. Only this guy made back home and lived to old age in a shitty little Arizona town.

Christopher Walken ironically portrays the angel of death Gabriel, who needs this soul to start the war between heaven and hell.  The film cuts back and forth between the Thomas and Gabriel, both of them trying to get to the soul before it’s too late.

The soul ends up in a little girl on an Indian reservation. Thomas, (Elias Koteas), falls in love with her teacher, (Virginia Madsen), and they have to protect the girl from Gabriel. It’s bold to include a little girl in the threat. Children in danger is great for building suspense, as no one should really want to see kids get hurt. Widen milks this opportunity finding many ways to keep Gabriel threatening.

I really should mention both Adam Goldberg and Amanda Plummer as two of Walken’s ghouls. They are both particularly pitiful and hilarious. These moments are able to provide a sense of black humor without distracting from the sick and evil nature of Gabriel, who is revealed to be an incredibly cruel creature.

The themes of the film are really second to the noirish and horrific nature of the storytelling. While Thomas is a priest who has lost his faith and re-gains it through a supernatural encounter, this is not exactly original. Nor is the film’s leaning toward a final view that self-sacrifice, (specifically Eric Stolz at the end of the first act) is noble. This is a common idea in most stories.

The most interesting aspect of the tale is near the end where Thomas must make an agreement with the devil to save the girl. This is worth considering because by virtue of dealing with the devil, Thomas is admitting in his head that the situation is not in God’s control. If he really acted according to faith, he would have cast the devil out right away. While it is true the devil had a selfish interest in helping Thomas, perhaps his involvement was not necessary. 

By the end of the scene Viggo Mortensen is begging Koteas and Madsen to come with him and at this point Thomas demands he leave. But, in my reading it is too late. Dealing with the devil is not without consequence Father Thomas. I like this picture quite a bit despite its familiar flavor. Stellar performances and a willingness to keep things horrific make this film rise above its limitations. 

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