A fresh-faced Demi Moore stars in the Biblical apocalypse thriller The Seventh Sign in which one expectant mother takes on the end of the world. With a solid cast and interesting themes, it’s no wonder the film has a legion of fans. Unfortunately, it never transcends the clunky storytelling that ultimately keeps it from reaching greatness. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Seventh Sign provides a respectable A/V presentation with a new set of new bonus features sure to please longtime fans. Recommended.
“You are the seventh seal.”
If you lived through the cable boom of the 90’s, you’ve probably seen The Seventh Sign. Named after the seven signs of the impending apocalypse in the Book of Revelation, the film was practically on every movie channel along with the likes of The Beastmaster. It was produced during the late 80’s in an era of “Satanic Panic” where everything from heavy metal to arthouse films was supposedly driving people into Devil worshipping cults. Fortunately, this film eschews the demonic themes and instead focuses on Biblical texts and the sacrifices required for devout religious faith. Revisiting this old standard, I was pleasantly surprised at how different this movie would be if it were made today. Could a film like The Seventh Sign tackle the Biblical apocalypse without channeling a million jump-scares or whiplash-generating CGI?
Agnostic expectant mother Abby (Demi Moore) goes in for a routine sonogram then puts down a deposit on a swanky preschool. Her husband Russell (Michael Biehn) is a lawyer in the midst of a case involving a teenager with Down Syndrome called the “Word of God Killer.” Growing concerned for her baby Abby begins seeing visions and experiencing omens. Russell turns her away as being just another worried mother-to-be. We cut to a stoic figure (Jürgen Prochnow) named David Bannon who is bringing about the Biblical apocalypse by breaking the seals on prophecies which wreck death and destruction in their wake. Hot on his trail is Father Lucci (Peter Friedman) sent from the Vatican to investigate claims of the prophecies coming true. When Abby rents out her garage apartment it’s David who signs the lease. Snooping through his things she believes that David is somehow ushering in the apocalypse and her unborn child is in grave danger.
The Seventh Sign is an underrated gem of a film. Combining late 80’s religious hysteria with a moody suburban lens on religious faith the film finds a cozy pocket between character drama and horror/thriller. Those with an acute knowledge of Christianity and Judaism will see how the film picks various elements from the two in order to craft the story. Instead of taking the Roland Emmerich approach to the end of days, Hungarian director Carl Schultz takes a subtler course by using sympathetic characters to drive the story rather than mass hysteria and bloated action set pieces. Sure it could be a budgetary restraint, but it’s refreshing. To see Abby channel surfing as the world is crumbling around her paints an eerie portrait about our disconnect with the world. Unfortunately, some convoluted plotting turns an otherwise straightforward Good vs. Evil dynamic into a confusing mess. A number of subplots and subtexts are hinted at but never explored fully. Also, too many pertinent details are revealed in the final scenes leaving viewers in bewilderment as the climax closes in quickly. It’s unfortunate that Father Lucci’s story is sacrificed in this manner. I’d love to give more details but I don’t want to spoil anything!
Demi Moore’s performance is solid throughout. She handles the weight of the proceedings confidently if a tad on a melodramatic side. Michael Biehn turns in a hot-headed performance as Russell, providing some much-needed tension. While the character is mostly forgettable till the end Biehn should be commended for adding some meat to the part. Jürgen Prochnow’s icy intensity cuts through the screen keeping the audience constantly on edge. It’s a great performance from an exceptional character actor. The great John Heard has a bit-part towards the end as a Reverend that caught me off guard; for a few moments, he steals the show and adds a bit of humor to an otherwise intense story.
As we’re taken on Abby’s nightmarish journey with the mysterious stranger in her garage the breadth of humanity begins to unfold as the apocalypse draws near. It’s no coincidence that the weight of the world rests on a mother’s shoulders. As a parent watching this film I was moved by the story’s climax and sat in wonderment as the credits rolled. The Seventh Sign is a memorable film that portrays the sacrifices needed for faith and belief.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Shout Factory brings The Seventh Sign to Region A Blu-ray in a single disc release housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The disc opens to Shout! Factory and Scream Factory logos before settling on the static Main Menu screen. Typical navigation options are available.
The Seventh Sign is presented in 1080p with an Anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer looks very clean with film grain evident but a bit of noise permeating the image at times. The color palette is pretty dismal and unmistakably 80’s as we follow Abby around her life, but when the film takes us to dream sequences and far-flung destinations we see vivid life show through this HD transfer. Unfortunately, the resolution exaggerates the boring 80’s drab color palette leaving the viewer praying for more outdoor scenes! No damage apparent on the image. Fine detail is visible and consistent from the individually groomed hairs on Demi’s eyebrows to the intricate costume textures on the Roman soldier. Skin tones appear even throughout the feature. Primaries aren’t vivid but pronounced when necessary. Black levels are solid without evidence of crushing. Overall, the visual presentation is very good here with a respectable image quality.
Supplied with only a DTS HD-MA 2.0 audio mix, The Seventh Sign sounds remarkably good. The track accentuates all the nuances hidden within the texture like the creepy Gregorian chants, ominous echoes, and other foreboding elements. Dialogue is clear and clean without hiss detected. Balance is consistent through the sound field with the work handled confidently by the center and front channels. Low frequencies resonate strongly within the mix and are tested during the earthquake scenes. Overall, it's a nicely groomed audio track that gets the job done. I’d keep the volume level at medium as the atmospherics and scoring really heighten the experience of watching the film. English subtitles available.
The Seventh Sign wasn’t blessed with a much anticipated commentary track but Scream Factory was able to produce several interview featurettes that are well worth checking out.
The Seventh Sign is a solid religious thriller from the 80’s that helped launch the career of Demi Moore. The film is riveting and engaging from start to finish even if you get a bit lost in the proceedings. Audiences will surely enjoy the dramatic themes of sacrifice and devout faith as it plays against the horror of the apocalypse. Scream Factory brings The Seventh Sign to Region A Blu-ray with a respectable A/V presentation and a host of special features sure to please any fan of the film. It won’t please everyone but as a staple of 80’s thrillers this one is Recommended.