The powers of good and evil and Christopher Walken’s punctuation collide in The Prophecy Collection from ViaVision. The first film is a devilishly creepy film with Walken delivering a terrific pissed of archangel, but as the direct-to-video sequels continued the value and scares cheapened and diminished. The core Walken trilogy still holds up and this set offers a welcome improvement over the old Echo Bridge discs of old, complete with a nice range of extra features. Worth A Look
Some films spawned weird franchises back in the 90s. When the rental market was still thriving feeding those Blockbuster and Hollywood Video shelves was an important priority for studios - even prestige ones like Miramax. Writer/Director Gregory Widen cut his teeth working on genre flicks like Highlander, thrillers like Backdraft, and a little TV series called Tales from the Crypt (seriously where’s the Blu-ray of that show?). With his 1995 film The Prophecy, he helped reinvigorate the sagging Religious Horror sub-genre and let Christopher Walken dial in the entertainingly mean and diabolical fallen angel Gabriel. With Virginia Madsen and Elias Koteas running support and Amanda Plummer dropping by for a quick piece, the film was a modest success and lived well on rental shelves. Moody atmosphere, gnarly makeup effects, Eric Stolts, and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer round out a grim, creepy horror thriller made in the guise of a police procedural.
A sequel sounded like a good idea, but the decision-makers apparently felt a lower-budget direct-to-video feature made more cents. Nickel and dimed into existence, the aptly titled The Prophecy II saw Walken’s Gabriel crawl his way out of hell to continue his fallen angelic quest to rid the world of humans and prevent the birth of a child. Russell Wong, Jennifer Beals, Brittany Murphy, and best of all Eric Roberts as Archangel Michael take over this interesting but anemic sequel. In a particularly fun bit, we get to watch Walken go full Walken on Re-Animator’s Bruce Abbott standing in for Elias Koteas with an amazing wig and friar frock. To its credit, it’s better than average for direct-to-video sequel material, and perhaps with a better budget, it could have been a proper albeit still unnecessary sequel.
Then we come to The Prophecy 3: The Ascent. All trilogies have to come to an end sometime and seeing our series villain return as a hero is probably the only way to get the job done. Walken is still very Walken here as the fallen angel Gabriel, but now in human form, he’s basically going full Kyle Reece. Protecting a half-human/half-angel “Nephilim,” played by Dave Bozzotta, Walken’s Gabriel is on the path of redemption in the eyes of God by helping end the war on earth. Working in this film’s favor is Director Patrick Lussier but as the second direct-to-video sequel the smell of cheap wafts through virtually every scene. Not terrible, certainly watchable and entertaining, but the franchise should have stopped here. But it didn't.
Until this set arrived on my doorstep I’d honestly blocked out from my memory anything of Joel Soissen’s back-to-back 2005 sequels The Prophecy: Uprising and The Prophecy: Forsaken. I know I saw these films 18 years ago while I was in college, but I have to admit I was probably well into a fifth of Seagrams given my habits and the company I kept at the time. Watching them again was like seeing them for the first time and I have to give Soissen some credit for gumption. These aren’t horrible movies, but their biggest issue is how thin they are - and short. The two films probably could have been one story and been better off. To their credit, they’re well cast featuring Kari Wuhrer in the lead with appearances from John Light, Tony Todd, Sean Pertwee, and Doug Bradley with some fun gnarly makeup effects from Gary Tunnicliffe. Again not terrible, they’re watchable, but they probably would have been better served without the pre-established franchise baggage. Because really, without Christopher Walken, it’s just not The Prophecy.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Thanks to ViaVision, The Prophecy Collection five-film set comes home to Blu-ray. Each film gets its own Region Free Blu-ray disc to live on and is housed in a five-disc case with individual trays without being stacked. The case slips into a slick lenticular hard case complete with an envelope of art cards for the films. Each disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.
Like so many Dimension/Miramax genre films, The Prophecy hasn’t exactly enjoyed a stellar life on Blu-ray. The Early Echo Bridge discs were generally terrible while Lionsgate’s sets weren’t amazing but were at least marginally better. Overall the set of films ranges from pretty respectable to a bit dodgy to pretty good.
The Prophecy makes out the best of the pack. I don’t know the vintage of this transfer but it's far better than the old 2011 discs - I couldn’t locate the Lionsgate disc for comparison. Details are pretty good and film grain is retained, but it can look fairly noisy. Some shots are rendered well while other shots it’s a bit more distracting. Colors are nice and blacks are inky with only a couple of thick spots bordering on crush. Those moments featured some special effects and could just be a side effect of the process. 3.5/5
The Prophecy II and The Prophecy 3: The Ascent look like they’re both sourced from the same older master used for the Echo Bridge sets, but because of disc space and better encoding they look quite a bit better. There are still some signs of edge enhancement throughout but the details look notably sharper and a bit cleaner. Colors can be a bit muted in places but skin tones and key primaries look nice. 3/5
Being more recent and shot back-to-back, The Prophecy: Uprising and The Prophecy: Forsaken generally look pretty good. Details are clean, colors have the blue-skewed tones of the early 2000s, but skin shades are overall healthy and human. Blacks are also well-measured and whites are appropriately crisp. 3.5/5
On the audio side of the equation, each film comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix, as well as an LPCM 2.0 track to match. Across the board, these are pretty great audio tracks. Given my main home setup I enjoyed the 5.1 mixes for being active and engaging with clean dialog. That said, the 2.0 tracks work well. My experience for those was in my office setup while I cataloged the bonus features and did my writeups. So depending on your rig, you have two great options. I will say that the overall surround presence and immersion varies a little as the sequels go on. The first film’s 5.1 track is pretty damn fantastic giving the elements a nice presence throughout the channels. As the series goes on the mixes are pretty immersive but their intensity eases back. By the time you get to the last two films the 5.1 tracks only have slight movement in the surround channels keeping the bulk of the action in the front/center channels. But to their credit, each track has clean clear dialog and are engaging enough to keep your attention.
Now where this set really shines is the trove of bonus features collected for all of the films. Each film gets a nice audio commentary track to dig into. The first and fourth films carry the bulk of the interesting extras moving into some cool behind-the-scenes and retrospective materials. The audio commentaries for the last two films are especially nice given the writer/director Joel Soisson’s participation along with the always entertaining F/X designer Gary Tunnicliffe as well as other stars and players from the film. The Bryan Reesman and Max Evry commentaries are also very interesting listens covering the core Walken trilogy and the development and release of each film. All in all, some great stuff in here, especially if you dig audio commentaries!
The Prophecy II
The Prophecy 3: The Ascent
The Prophecy: Uprising
The Prophecy: Forsaken
What’s pretty wild is you can to some extent chart the rise and fall of the Weinstein brothers and Miramax alongside The Prophecy franchise. When the first film was released the brothers had established themselves as a Hollywood powerhouse that commanded the attention of established prestige and up-and-coming filmmakers while also making some damn fun genre features. By the time The Prophecy: Forsaken was released, the brothers were out of the studio they created. The franchise started strong in 1995 but diminished in overall value as the series trudged along through four direct-to-video sequels. Thankfully, they’re not all bad. The core Walken trilogy is pretty good and the two back-to-back followups Uprising and Forsaken are at least watchable entertaining extensions.
Now on Blu-ray in a five-film five-disc set from ViaVision - we get the whole franchise in one single shot. The A/V presentation for each film is respectable, not earth-shatteringly amazing but good enough to get you through while there is a healthy assortment of extras to dig into. The core Walken Trilogy is due for a 4K release from Vinegar Syndrome later this year, so in a few weeks, we’ll have to reassess The Prophecy all over again! Until then, if you’ve been looking to add these films to the collection, this is a solid set worth your attention. Worth A Look
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