With The Prophecy, Gregory Widen makes an impressively literate venture into the theme of angels. When one thinks about angels on film what invariably comes to mind is the likes of Roma Downey in Touched by an Angel (1994-2003) or Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven (1984-9) and their accompanying by much in the way of insipidly preachy feelgood family sentiments. Perhaps at its best, the feelgood angel treatment reaches the heights of an Its a Wonderful Life (1946) or the beatific meditations of Wim Wenders Wings of Desire (1987) and Faraway, So Close! (1993) but most angel films seem trapped somewhere between Pollyanna fantasies and being all-but-in-name Baptist recruiting commercials. Amidst this, The Prophecy is welcome as the first film to venture into the angelic fantasy by way of a full, heady flight of Biblical mythology and to eschew the weepy positive thinking sentiments in favour of a grand Old Testament fire and thunder. Indeed, the only other filmic efforts to venture into this take on angelic mythology is the The X Files episode All Souls (1998) and the subsequent film Legion (2010).
The Prophecy is rare for being a horror film that is conducted not with gooey meltdown effects and campy one-liners but with literacy and intelligence. (Which may well explain why it was not a major box-office success). It is certainly a film that asks patience of an audience it is a good half-hour into the film before the often wilfully cryptic plot strands begin to coalesce and one begins to properly understand what is going on. Even when the plot has done so, one feels the odd strand is left unwound I, for instance, was never sure what Gabriel needed the colonels soul for.
Gregory Widen gives his Gabriel and Lucifer some beautifully ornate pieces of dialogue: You know how you got that dent in your top lip? Gabriel taunts hero Elias Koteas. Way back, before you were born, I put my finger there and said shhhh. Equally appealing are Widens playfully amusing images of angels in the modern world Gabriel resurrecting the dead because he hasnt learnt how to drive a car or the delightful throwaway image of Gabriel sitting amongst a group of school children, getting them try out his trumpet. If The Prophecy is to be faulted it is that its medium range budget never allows Gregory Widen to direct his angelic war with the grandiose scope it keeps seeming to want to break out into; on the other hand, this also allows him to keep the story contained at a more cerebral rather than physical level.
As Gabriel, Christopher Walken has the most fun he appears to have had in a role in some years. The role is perfectly suited to Walken and both he and Gregory Widen craft the part with just the right balance of extravagant playing to the gallery and wry, ironic humour. Also very good is Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer. Mortensen, who always seemed to elude the star quality he was eminently capable of up until the big breakthrough success of The Lord of the Rings, makes for an intense and darkly captivating Lucifer. It is one of the joyous ironies of the film that Lucifer becomes the unexpected benefactor to the heros struggle and even the equivalent of the Seventh Cavalry arriving to save the day at the climax.
There were four sequels The Prophecy II (1998) and The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000), both of these also starring Christopher Walken, and The Prophecy: Uprising (2005) and The Prophecy: Forsaken (2005) directed by this films producer Joel Soisson.
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 1995 Awards).