The Lesser of Two Evils
The Prophecy: Uprising is the third sequel to the marginally successful horror film, The Prophecy (1995). Arguably, the highlight of the first three chapters of the franchise was the deliciously creepy performance by Christopher Walken as the sociopath archangel Gabriel, responsible for a brutal civil war in heaven. Quite unfortunately, the malicious Gabriel does not appear in The Prophecy: Uprising, and with no mention made of the ongoing angelic rebellion, the movie’s plot is much changed from its predecessors.
These structural changes make The Prophecy: Uprising a sequel in name only, which somehow justifies the DVD package’s claim that it “stands alone as a terrific thriller.” Fans of the original are sure to be disappointed, as The Prophecy is one of the many horror franchises belonging to Dimension films, the company responsible for sinking decent horror series (The Crow , Halloween , and Hellraiser ) to the lowest depths of cinematic hell.
Still, and in spite of a convoluted plot, The Prophecy: Uprising is not an entirely bad film. One has to wonder as to why the company shelved it for nearly two years before releasing it straight to video in 2005. The DVD includes several extra features that will be of interest to avid fans of the series, but may not appeal to a general audience. The group commentary with writer/director Joel Soisson, actress Kari Wuhrer, and other cast and crew members, fails to provide insight into the production or legacy of the series. Instead, their conversation tends to gravitate towards bloopers and other superficial anecdotes.
More interesting is the documentary, “Adapting to Mother Nature: The Making of The Prophecy: Uprising,” which concentrates on the many difficulties and benefits of filming in Romania. As Soisson asserts, the advantages of shooting in the visually arresting streets of Bucharest, which combine gloomy gothic architecture with postmodern industrial decay, far outweigh the challenges of being away from Hollywood.
This post-Soviet “urban wasteland” serves as a perfect backdrop for Uprising, which from the beginning blurs the distinction between good and evil. This thematic preoccupation is reinforced by the use of striking gray visuals, thanks to the rainy and ominous streets of Bucharest. The opening titles are presented on top of vintage newsreel featuring ex-dictator Nicolai Ceausescu overseeing a pompous military parade. Flashforward to the present: Ceausescu’s police state is over, but the once elegant city streets are now devastated. The contrast between the periods questions the “benefits” brought by the fall of Ceausescu’s regime.
In this wretched landscape, an apparently homeless man is trying to escape from a relentless assailant. After a few minutes of chase, the grimy and unshaven aggressor catches and brutally tortures his quarry before stealing all his money. Soon thereafter, it is revealed that the attacker is Dani Simionescu (Sean Pertwee), a crooked police detective, and the victim a petty drug dealer. Simionescu also feels guilt, however, revealed in the following scene when he donates the drug money to the church.
Such ambivalence serves as background for the appearance of the mysterious, but ultimately fascinating, John Riegert (John Light), dressed in a long black trenchcoat (fans of the Prophecy series will rightly guess that Riegert is an “angel”). Claiming to be an Interpol agent, he asks Simionescu for his help in a difficult case. It seems that a serial killer has been working his way across Europe, leaving corpses behind with their hearts ripped out.
The Prophecy: Uprising is not a suspense thriller though, and early on, we learn the killer is Belial. A fallen angel like Satan, Belial is searching for “The Lexicon,” a fabled book that tells the full story of the universe, which he intends to use to create a second, meaner, hell. Also after the Lexicon are Simon (voiced by Jason London), a seemingly benevolent angel shown only as a blur of bright light, and Satan, the prince of darkness himself, who we never encounter. Even thought their motivations are not nearly as clear as those of Belial, all three entities fight for possession of the Lexicon in a convoluted cat and mouse game.
The morally ambiguous Simionescu raises questions as to the existence of pure good and unadulterated evil. When he asks who the good guys are, Riegert merely responds, “You have to look at me as the lesser of two evils.” In the end, the film itself is unresolved. But then again, this film and its follow-up, The Prophecy: Forsaken (2005), were shot back to back. While we wait for the DVD release of this last film, coming fall, we might ponder why Satan ends up being the most charismatic and sympathetic character in Uprising. Although he is often presented as alluring and enigmatic in popular culture, this may well be the first film where the Prince of Darkness is merciful, tolerant, and even politically centered.