Company: Overseas FilmGroup
Runtime: 98 mins
Plot: The rebelling angel Gabriel comes to Earth to collect a soul which will end the stalemated Second War in Heaven, and only a former priest, a school teacher, and a little girl can stop him.
Review: I grew up in a pretty religious family setting, so even though I am no longer a religious person I still find myself loving movies (especially thrillers) with dark religious overtones, and out of those movies The Prophecy series (alternately named God's Army in parts of the world) is easily my favorite.
In the first movie of this long-running series, we follow a priest who has lost his Faith and turned cop and a small community school teacher as they get caught up in the middle of a Second War in Heaven, this one caused by the Arch Angel Gabriel who is jealous that God loves humans more then the Angels and he wants to make things 'As they were', and many of the angels have joined him, and a prophecy has been made about a 'dark soul' that will tip the tides of the War, so Simon (one of the good angels) finds this evil soul and hides it in the body of a little girl before he dies, and it's that girl that the main characters have to protect from Gabriel, who is trying to get his hands on that soul.
This is one 'Talky' movie and there's not a whole lot of action to keep the pace going, however I still find myself loving this low budget romp quite a lot, and the reasons for that are many – For instance, I love the way they portray the Angels when on Earth in their human form. They look human, but there's just something...off...about them. The way they talk, the way they act and compose themselves, the way they sit perched like a bird on the edges of objects, it's all slightly off and a bit unnaturally creepy. Anyone who watches the TV show Supernatural will actually have a good idea as to what I'm talking about here, as Supernatural took a page out of this movie's book in terms of their portrayal of the Angels, especially when they were first introduced way back in Season 4. Hell, that show came complete with a group of rebelling angels that are angry that God loves the 'talking monkeys' more then them (as Gabriel refers to them as in these movies as well), and on Supernatural they were portrayed in human form pretty much exactly as they are in this movie, from the way they talk to the way they act to even the various powers they have (teleporting, bringing someone back from the dead (or near-dead in this case), knocking someone unconscious just by tapping their head, creating fire out of nothing, being able to smell humans nearby, plus many more surprises). It really does seem like Supernatural, at least in its earlier days of Seasons 4 and 5, used this movie as inspiration for their portrayal of Angels. But I've gotten a bit off point here, hahaha, bottom line is, I love the way the Angel characters were portrayed while on-screen, adding a slight unnatural air about things.
Of course it's helped by the actors who did great with their material, with Christopher Walken as Gabriel stealing the show and probably being his most memorable role for me. From his anger and frustration at the humans, to his genuine sadness over not being in God's graces anymore, to his confusion at human technology - the guy was on-point every step of the way and if nothing else, these movies are worth watching just for his portrayal of this character alone. Joining him is also a cameo by Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer himself, another shining portrayal that even though he only has about 5 minutes of total screentime, still manages to turn in one very memorable and downright creepy as hell performance. I also loved the twist of the main human characters having to go to Lucifer, the embodiment of all that is Evil, in order to beat the villain of the movie – after all, as Lucifer even says himself, if Gabriel takes over Heaven it'll just become another Hell and that's one Hell too many for the ruler of the One and Only True Hell. There's also Elias Koteas (Casey Jones from the first and third live-action Ninja Turtles movies) as the main priest-turned-cop character and Virginia Madsen (main chick from the first Candyman) as the school teacher that he teams up with to keep the little girl safe from Gabriel who pursues them across the New Mexico desert, and both of them do good enough in their roles, though nothing too stand-outish like Walken and Mortensen, and likewise Eric Stoltz as the Angel Simon does his job well, but his role here required him to be far more lowkey then some of the other roles. The only real sour point when it comes to the acting is that of the main little girl herself, as she was just downright painful to watch, especially during her scenes of being possessed by the Dark Soul that's being hidden inside of her – probably one of the worst child actors I've ever seen and it certainly brings the movie down a bit.
Also raising the movie up fairly high in my eyes is the eerie and perfectly-toned musical score, as well as the excellent background mythology. Many people may find the movie boring, as the action scenes are few and far between, and most of the movie is just talking, however, personally, I loved that talking because it was never pointless talking just to fill space in the movie – almost every scene's dialog did something to help establish the background mythology of this movie's universe in terms of the Angels and the Wars in Heaven, to the point where even now on my ompteenth re-watch, I still pick up on lines of dialog that add something new to the mythology that I never did notice before in any of the times I've watched it. So yes, while I can't fault anyone for finding the movie slow and boring, it didn't personally bother me because I just found myself getting wrapped up in all that mythology and world-building. Plus, like I said above, Walken's excellent performance is worthy of your full attention whenever he's on-screen (which is often), so if nothing else then that should keep your interest.
The parts of the movie however that I felt bogged things down a tad and the more times I re-watch it the more and more I feel like just fast-forward through, are the parts dealing with the Dark Soul itself. Sure, the idea of it is fine and I'm ok with it being the crutch of the movie's plot, but the stuff I hated was once it was put inside the little girl and she starts getting possessed by it and drawing violent pictures, speaking in the soul's voice, getting sick, and the eventual exorcism that the climax of the movie is built around, all of that stuff I could have done without and a large part of that is, as I said above, the performance of the little girl as she was just brutal to watch and sit through during those scenes, but another reason is that it kind of felt out of place with everything else going on in the movie and came across almost like they needed more stuff to pad the movie out with so they took excerpts from some unfinished script sitting in their vault and added them into this movie.
As far as religious-themed thrillers go, The Prophecy series (or the God's Army series, depending on where you live)is one of my favorites, partially because of the excellent better-then-average world-building mythology, partially because of the unique (at the time) portrayal of Angels, and partially because of the excellent and memorable performances from some of the (again, at the time) virtually unknown actors. However the little girl's acting will cause you to cringe every time she speaks, and I really can't argue with anyone who says the movie is slow because it very much is, however like I've said above, that didn't personally bother me at all because I was so into the mythology they were spewing at me during those scenes.
Looking back, it's actually kind of an enigma as to how this low-key drama/thriller movie spawned 4 sequels because it just seems so random when compared to some of the other series' that gave way to large franchises, however I'm glad that it did because the series as a whole is one I enjoy immensely and love revisiting at least once a year.
8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward