Monday, October 3, 2011

The Seventh Sign (1988)

Title: The Seventh Sign (1988)

Director: Carl Schultz

Cast: Demi Moore, Michael Biehn, Jurgen Prochnow

The Seventh Sign is one of these movies that takes elements from Christian mythology and brings them to cinematic life. In this way, The Seventh Sign is similar to films like The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) because they are films that play with people’s fears of the afterlife, of ghosts and demons and the supernatural. Also, these types of films deal with the biggest fear of all for God fearing Christians, the Antichrist and Satan himself! The interesting thing about religious horror films such as The Seventh Sign is that they bring to life things that Christians can only day dream about. For example a Christian might pass their whole lives waiting for the proverbial ‘Day of Judgment’ to come, but films like The Seventh Sign bring that biblical day of apocalypse to life. I’m sure that for a Christian, this kind of film will have a special edge to it, that an unbeliever (such as myself) simply won’t find. To me it’s just a regular old horror movie dealing with the supernatural, and as such, I have fun with it. But scare me it doesn’t. Still, I’m sure a lot of people would be spooked out by this one. This is the kind of film that sinks itself deep into biblical lore; it goes deep into prophecies and portents that foretell all about the end of the world. Those of you not familiar with bible prophecies might get a little lost within the Christian mumbo-jumbo, but in all honesty, the premise and plot aren’t that difficult to understand.

Basically, what we have here is the idea that God is ready to bring forth the end of the world. He has passed judgment on humanity, and the verdict says humanity has been very, very bad. So the sings of the end of the world are starting to show up all over the world. Every living thing in the sea is dying, it’s raining hail, earthquakes are happening left and right, and the stormy winds have begun! The apocalypse is at hand! But wait, one last sign has to happen before the end of the world comes, can that sign be stopped? Can the end of the world be prevented? Will god give humanity a second chance?

Jurgen Prochnow as Jesus Christ himself

 A couple of films have already played out the biblical “end of the world” scenario, one of  my favorites is Alex Proya’s Knowing (2009). I liked that one because it portrayed the end of the world as something that is scientific in nature, but that it can be perceived by Christians as something that’s fulfilling bible prophecy.  With that film, the end of the world can be divine in nature; or the other way around, depends on what you believe. That one didn’t lean toward one side or the other. Films like The Seventh Seal adhere strictly to the Catholics interpretation of the bible, same as The Exorcist. Other films that deal with the fulfillment of bible prophecies include: The Reaping (2007), Legion (2010), The Omen Franchise, Prince of Darkness (1987), The Prophecy Franchise and  Stigmata (1999), just to mention a few. The Seventh Sign is a pretty cool one among these because it brings us so close to the whole shit house going up in flames. I mean, Knowing is the most destructive of all these pictures, that one actually brings forth ‘the end of the world’ but The Seventh Sign comes pretty close to annihilating all of humanity  as well. On this film we actually get seconds away from the end of it all.

"Would you die for him?"

Demi Moore plays the role of Abby Quinn, a pregnant woman who holds the fate of the world within her womb. The film goes for a Rosemary’s Baby type of vibe because at one point the film becomes all about Abby Quinn protecting her baby from a group of people who want it. And we get the idea that maybe they want the baby to sacrifice it or something? Or is their some other motive? So for a while the film goes on that vibe. Then things turn really apocalyptic when we learn that Jurgen Prochnow’s character is actually Jesus Christ himself! Though he goes by the alias of ‘David Bannon’, he is actually The King of Kings whose second coming, as it turns out in this film, was to take place in 1988. So we even get the second coming of Christ on this picture! I get the word play on his alias; ‘David Bannon’ as in ‘Banning’ humanity from this world for all eternity. He has come to judge humanity, and he doesn’t find anything he likes in it. But wait, is their a glimmer of hope with this young lady called Abby Quinn?

The best part about these types of films is seeing the prophecies coming true. According to the bible, the signs that the Day of Judgment is at hand are: the moon turning blood red, the fish in the sea dying, water turning into blood, earthquakes, hail…and strange things happening in general, all of which we see happen in this film. There is a constant build up through out the film because we know that all these signs build up to the titular “seventh sign”, and then the end of the world is supposed to happen once that seventh sign shows up. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to watch the world end on film, from the safety of your couch? Call me crazy, but I always look forward to it! One question was left unanswered and I’m sure it’s something to do with bible lore that I’m not getting, but Jesus goes around the film opening these letters and breaking these seals on them. These letters each speak of the prophecy that is being fulfilled,  and I know that the bible says that when these seals are broken, the end of the world is at hand, but exactly what happens when these letters are opened that brings forth the end of the world? I don’t know. 

The basic idea of this film goes a bit against what the bible says about the end of the world. Sure it plays with the idea and it uses the bible and catholic mysticism to back its story up, but at other times it goes clearly against what the bible says. I don’t blame the writers of the film for getting a couple of things mixed up; after all, the bible is filled with contradictions and it’s at times a jumbled mess of ideas. But for example, in The Seventh Sign a woman can determine if the end of the world is going to happen or not. The way I see it, if God wants to bring forth the end of the world, I doubt that a mere human would have the power to stop him. The guy is supposed to be all powerful, he can do whatever the hell he wants. Also, according to the bible when the Day of Judgment comes, it will come like “a thief in the night”, and no one will be expecting it because according to the bible no one knows when the day of reckoning will come. Not the angels, not us humans, and not even Jesus himself knows, only God. So the whole premise of this movie goes against what the bible teaches because on this film, quite a few people know when the end is coming. But whatever, as a religious horror film it works wonders, especially if you’re into the bible and its teachings.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Manuel Marrero said...

I have this film. Its a ok movie...but nothing big. Like the part when jesus or the angel as many people call him, looks at the kid and says; Write everything you saw, tell the world.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, it's got its moments. I liked the scene where she stabs Jesus and light comes out of him, I thought that was pretty cool.

But he is Jesus, there is that flashback that goes back to bible times, in which a Roman soldier is beating Jesus to death and he asks Demi Moore "Would you die for him?" and all she wanted to do was give him water, that scene comes directly from the bible itself, when a woman tried to give Jesus water and a Roman soldier prevented her from doing so.

Unknown said...

Yeah, I would agree that this film has its moments but it never did much for me. Have you seen THE BELIEVERS with Martin Sheen? That's a pretty cool supernatural thriller with more of a voodoo angle to it. I always had a soft spot for that one.

Franco Macabro said...

Yup, saw The Believers and dug it. It's spooky and it shows that the religion portrayed in that film (Santeria) can have both a dark side and a good side, I liked that about it. Havent seen it in ages though!

Greg Stuart Smith said...

I would classify myself as a believer (as apposed to an "nonbeliever"), who is also a huge fan of horror, and a proponent for sex, violence, and depravity in film, television, literature, etc.

So as a walking talking contradiction, I'm just like the Bible!

But really, though, I feel the strength of the Bible IS it's contradictions. The fact that it is a collected text, comprised of the writings of different folks who lived in different times; this means there are going to be all kinds of discrepancies, especially when you consider how teachings and histories where passed on before recent times: by the spoken word by in large.

Anyway, I'm also a one who believes in science, evolution (and am fascinated by it), sex before marriage (with as many women as you can before it's too late!) and the absolute need for free thought, and a free flow of ideas. Oddly enough, I don't buy into conspiracy theories, think Oswald was the only shooter, and am not prone to buy into to sensational ideas. Oh, and I drink too much. I just happen to believe in the Divine... and I'm not talking about the transvestite either!

There! Now that that is out of the way...

I don't buy into Armageddon in the Biblical sense, but really enjoyed this movie when I was younger. As you can imagine, my beliefs were more literal back then.

Man, I caught this flick while spending the night at a friends house when I was like eleven and thought it was great! I was also confused by the erection I got by watching a naked (and very, very pregnant) Demi Moore get into a hot bathtub to slit her wrists! How's that for an eleven year old mind fuck: hey, kid, you get hard by watching naked pregnant ladies try to kill themselves! Well, she didn't REALLY kill herself, did she?

All kidding aside, I think this is one of the more shocking and effective uses of nudity I've ever scene in a "Hollywood" film... maybe any film.

The choice of Jurgen Prochnow as Jesus was inspired. When I was a kid, and even still, I liked how they made Christ seem so mysterious and "inhuman." At the time I first saw this one, the only other thing I'd seen Prochnow in was BEVERY HILLS COP II! I just saw him in THE KEEP a few months ago, in which he is great, as always. Anyway, I really believed him as Christ here, even though Jesus would never "really" look like the second cousin of Erwin Rommel!

As an aside: I saw Prochnow in Las Vegas maybe eight years ago around the pool at the Mandalay Bay with his wife. My girlfriend and I were blown away: Look! There's Jesus ordering am club sandwich!

Big fan of Michael Biehn, too. He's good here, and shows what he could have done, if cast against his more popular "Reese" and "Hicks" personas. In fact, it's the only straight dramatic role I can remember seeing him in.

Never really saw this movie as a straight horror film, more of an End Of The World Thriller, I always thought... if there can be such a thing!

Anyhow, a great, fair review of a so, so, but watchable movie.

If for nothing OTHER than that naked tub scene!!!

Cheers, Franco!

Franco Macabro said...

I never did find out if she was really pregnant while filming those scenes.

Thanks for sharing your anecdotes with Jurgen Prochnow, I thought he was good on this one too. And I loved The Keep, I wish it was available on dvd! My favorite of his performances is as Duke Leto Atreides in Lynch's Dune (1984).

Of course their is such a thing as an end of the world thriller! A good example would be Alex Proya's KNOWING, that one mixed both scientific and biblical point of views quite well, they were almost indistinguishable. Loved that one!

Greg Stuart Smith said...

She wasn't really pregnant. Later, though, she famously appeared pregnant and nude (in profile, though, she was covering her breast with her hand) on the cover of Vanity Fair; twice, actually: the first time she appeared nude on the cover, she was in body paint done up to look like she was in a suit. Both instances made quite the splash when they came out during the early 90's. If I recall, Leslie Nielson parodied the pregnant cover in one of his posters to THE NAKED GUN SERIES.

Yeah, and it is a real shame THE KEEP isn't available on DVD. My theory, is that if Michael Mann wanted it released, it would be. I haven't researched this, but for whatever reason, I don't think he's happy with it - not that any filmmaker ever is when it comes down to it, but he's so well regarded, that you'd think it'd be out there, if he said the word.

It'd be interesting to know why that film seems to have been buried.

Oh, and I'll keep an eye out for KNOWING. Thanks for that.

Franco Macabro said...

@Greg: Yeah, I remember those magazine covers, thats why I thought she might have been really pregnant, but I guess not. If she was though, she wouldnt be the first actress to act with a baby in her womb. I believe Kate Blanchett did it for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zezou.

As for The Keep, yeah, their was troubles with it, the producers took the film away because they didnt like the direction in which it was headed, it was a big production problem, it got worse when the film didnt make any money at the box office. The movie is good, I dont know what the big deal is, sometimes studios/producers and their cold feet can mess things up for a film.

Here's hoping it sees the light of day at some point. I mean, Im surprised that one of these companies who specializes in releasing cult films (like Blue Underground or something) hasnt released it yet.

KNOWING is pretty awesome in my book, I totally underestimated it because of the Nicholas Cage factor. But honestly, it was a great one. Highly recommend it.

Thanks for commenting Greg!

Greg Stuart Smith said...

It'd be nice if THE KEEP could get some tender loving care from Mann himself. The film did feel very choppy, like it hadn't been 100% completed, so that doesn't surprise me about the production/producer problems. I'd say it only feels like they got to shoot 75% of what they wanted, along with not enough support in post. It kills me, too, because when they do this, rush things, all they do is ruin their chances of making ANY money! Once you're in, go all the way and do what you go to do to wrench a great movie (or at least a decent one) out of what you got.

Robert Evan, the last of the great studio Lions out of the 60's and 70's, who ruled Paramount during its most successful period ever, would constantly push scheduled release dates if he felt a film wasn't ready; he even pushed the God Father. This was his genius, giving every picture its best chance to succeed. If you haven't read his autobiography, I highly recommend it: THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE; the HBO documentary is equally amazing. A must watch.

Oh, and I'm no huge fan of TITANIC, but if I recall, the pushed the release date on that, too! It wasn't ready, so they pushed it! And it was a much better film than it would have been otherwise, I'm sure.

It's stupid, this notion that it's bad for a film to monkey with the release date. That's the problem when you got everything riding on a few films, you've got very little wiggle room when you put all you're eggs in one basket.

Anyway, THE KEEP is still great.

I'd love to see an actual 35mm print!

Franco Macabro said...

That's the thing about some of these movies with production troubles, no matter the problems they have to get to the silver screen, sometimes what the director shot is so good that it still shines through no matter what.

Miss Joseli said...

every time i see this movie it impacts me.
it is clear it was a low budget movie, and made in the decade where high tech wasn't effective compared with the present (21st C)for such genre type movies.
it is timeless..the right actors - will be an interesting screenplay to redo

Anonymous said...

Am watching The Seventh Sign even now. Love Prochnows performance and Demis as well as the others were good as well. I like the movie, not over the top, just enough to make you think. Hope, the love of giving life appreciating life as a gift, the death of Christ for our sins a gift, salvation a gift.


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