Walken Tall: The Prophecy II (1998)

An excellent lead performance and a brilliant supporting turn are the highlights of this sturdy follow up sez Matty.

When pitching The Prophecy (1995), writer/director Gregory Widen described his nifty, ultra-hip chiller as “a theological Terminator (1984)”. While such a simple summation kind of does disservice to Widen’s ambitious and intelligent, if slightly pretentious, final film (then again, it was probably the only way he could get execs on board with his weird ‘civil war in heaven’ idea), it’s a template that The Prophecy’s distributor, Dimension, were evidently keen for helmer Greg Spence to stick to when they tasked him with bringing in a sequel. In fact, The Terminator parallels are even more pronounced in THE PROPHECY II. From evil archangel Gabriel’s resurrection, curled up, bollock naked on the floor, and the warehouse setting during the film’s rousing denouement (it takes place in an imaginatively presented industrial nightmare version of Eden); to the crux of the story concerning a young woman having to protect her unborn child — half human, half angel, all saviour — from Gabriel’s dogged pursuit, Spence’s follow-up is basically ‘James Cameron goes to Sunday school’. But that isn’t a bad thing. Not by a long shot.

Though lacking the moody existential posturing that helped define the original, The Prophecy II succeeds as a quality lil’ chase flick. Relating the film at a consistently fast pace, Spence, who’d previously crafted the excellent Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996) for Dimension, emphasises movement and excitement, nudging the film along with a commitment to set-pieces and imbuing it with style and a rich vein of black humour. Naturally, the bulk of the comedy comes from Christopher Walken, again dominating as the arrogant Gabriel. Working from a taut script by Spence and another then-regular of the Dimension circuit, Matt Greenberg (Halloween H20 (1998) and uncredited writing gigs on Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), and Mimic (1997)), Walken has a ball, playing Gabriel somewhere between a bemused fish out of water, completely ill at ease with humanity’s technological advancements, and a jealous ex, still pissed that God has sidelined him in favour of mankind. It’s the latter point that results in The Prophecy II’s finest moment. The thrills, suspense, and comic book horror are rock solid, but it’s a single quiet pocket at the film’s back end, when the lovelorn Gabriel admits that he and the big guy upstairs don’t talk anymore and chokes up, that stays with you because of how relatable it is. It’s pretty powerful knowing that divine beings experience heartache too.

Giving Walken a run for his money in the acting department is Brittany Murphy. Deservedly nominated for Best Supporting Actress at Fangoria’s Golden Chainsaw Awards in 1999 for her brilliant turn as Gabriel’s unwilling sidekick, Izzy, her arc mirrors Gabriel’s quest for reconciliation [1]. On the surface she’s essentially a replacement for the lackey essayed by Amanda Plummer in the original — but as The Prophecy II rattles along, Izzy’s tragi-comic desire to reunite with her deceased boyfriend after Gabriel thwarted their suicide pact is at once darkly hilarious and achingly poignant.     

Alas, the rest of the cast and their characters are a mixed bag. Jennifer Beals is excellent but her part, the heroine impregnated by Russell Wong’s dull-as-dishwater Kyle Reese figure, is underwritten. Eric Roberts is good value in the film’s final third, and the always welcome Bruce Abbott inherits the Thomas Daggett mantle from the first Prophecy’s Elias Koteas in an annoyingly brief appearance. Further connectivity to Prophecy numero uno is provided by the return of Steve Hytner’s bamboozled coroner, Joseph (Hytner would reprise the role for a third and final time in The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000), tying him with Walken for the most appearances in the five-strong Prophecy franchise), and it’s nice seeing Tom Towles and rocker Glenn Danzig in their cameos as a detective and a winged fiend, respectively. Mind you, whoever’s decision it was to not let Danzig crack wise and make a series of jokes based around his music needs throwing in the sea. Surely, the line “I’ll show you how the gods kill” was sitting right there. Heck, I’d have settled for him just shouting “mother!”

The Prophecy II was released straight-to-video in the U.S. on 20th January 1998 and landed on British tape and disc nearly three years later, in December 2000.

USA ● 1998 ● Horror ● 79mins

Christopher Walken, Jennifer Beals, Russell Wong, Brittany Murphy ● Dir. Greg Spence ● Wri. Matt Greenberg & Greg Spence

[1] She lost out to Sheryl Lee, who won for her equally sterling performance in John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998).

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