The Prophecy (1995) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

The new episode of the WTF Happened to This Horror Movie video series looks at The Prophecy, starring Christopher Walken

The episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? covering The Prophecy was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Travis Hopson, Edited by Victoria Verduzco, Produced by Andrew Hatfield and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

When it comes to religious-themed horror, there are a few films out there worth watching and when it comes to the early to mid-1990s, a few films really stand out in the dark, moody horror realm. These genres overlap quite a bit, and one stellar example of dark, moody, religious horror is the 1995 film The Prophecy (watch it HERE), starring Christopher Walken as the archangel Gabriel, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Viggo Mortensen, Eric Stoltz, and Amanda Plummer. The film had a stacked cast for 1995 and it seemed to do decently in horror circles but not so much outside of that. So, what happened to The Prophecy?

What is The Prophecy about? While many see it as a partial horror film, the official genre it’s in is fantasy thriller. Of course, in the 1990s and at random times before and since, the term horror is something many filmmakers and studios tried to stay away from and while others just embraced it. Horror has historically been the second best-selling genre of film overall. We can let you guess what the first one is…

Let’s start by stating that the film was not a flop, but a minor hit that led to 4 sequels, so it made enough to warrant us seeing future projects. The film itself is well-loved by horror fans and others, but overall, the general public was and is still not that enamored by it. The story here follows an LA detective who discovers that a prophecy is coming true following a murder. Teaming up with a schoolteacher, he goes out of his normal jurisdiction to resolve the mystery and prevent the end of the world. This story is filled with religious ideology and imagery, connections to the bible, angels, and different bits and pieces that come together to create a prophecy and its repercussions. Of course, the film has its own world it creates, and it uses the Bible very liberally, even creating a whole new chapter to John the Apostle’s Book of Revelation to fit the needs of the film. This may not sit well with some viewers, but horror fans don’t seem to mind.

Overall, the love for this film seems to be quite niche with reviewers aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes giving it an average of 46% fresh, so a rotten average, and the public giving the film 64% average, so not exactly rotten, but not great either. This seems to be the general public consensus through the years for this film. Films with religious themes seem to usually fall in the middle like this with examples including Stigmata in 1999, Dogma, also from 1999, and a few others. The 1990s saw a few more religious films that were not all positive about the religion they depicted, something audiences are quite split on. If we’re talking about films like The Exorcist where the priests are the saviors and religion is the good guy, then the scores from reviewers and audiences alike are usually higher. Note, usually, which means the sequels to this film are a whole other thing. With that in mind, The Prophecy came with its fallen angel lead who may be a bad guy, something established within the story, but unclear from the some of the marketing and it’s rewriting of the Bible, adding a chapter and making up quotes such as “Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons.” This did not sit well with many, thus creating a bit of controversy around the film. Thankfully, horror fans are used to controversy and to being called out for playing fast and loose with beliefs for the sake of fiction. Watching the film now, it’s of course a little dated, but it is also entertaining with an interesting take on the religious horror sub-genre.

The Prophecy WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

Of course, these reviewers and public numbers, the averages being low to just ok, would lead one to believe the film was a flop, but as mentioned earlier, it was not exactly a flop. Numbers-wise, it did decent. The film was made for an estimated $8 million which is on the lower side of things for a studio effort, even back then, but it was made under Weinstein and his studio Miramax which means it was meant to be more of an independent film in a sort of way. Yes, in a sort of way, because the film was made in 1993, then released in 1995. So, it was most likely greenlit before that. Also happening in 1993? The buyout of Miramax by The Walt Disney Company who remained the owners up until 2010. While Disney owned Miramax, the Weinsteins were still in charge, so the films were made under their watchful eyes. To Disney, $8 million is chump change, to Miramax at the time, it was a decent budget. The film was shot in 1993 and released in 1995, a practice that seemed to be the way to go with the folks at Miramax with some sources saying that the Weinsteins did this on purpose to allow for editing and then re-editing from their point of view, or with their notes. This would inevitably delay the release of anything they had their hands in producing.

This first film in a series of 5, yes, 5, was one that had the pedigree to attract horror and fantasy fans as well as cinema fans in general. The Prophecy was written and directed by Gregory Widen, who is often linked to another great fantasy film, Highlander. On Highlander, he was one of the writers and it was his very first film credit in 1986. Since then, before The Prophecy, he worked on the Highlander sequels, Backdraft, Weekend War, and on television series Space Rangers and Tales from the Crypt. Since The Prophecy, he has writing credits on the Prophecy sequels of course, more Highlander sequels and the tv series, a few Hellraiser sequels, some television series, the Backdraft sequel, and a few more titles. As a director, his only film credit is The Prophecy, and he also directed one Tales from the Crypt episode in 1993. So, his resume is spotty at best, but back when The Prophecy came out, he had some promising credits behind him. But, for fantasy fans, Highlander is a big one, so they went in for The Prophecy expecting to love it.

When it comes to the cast, this is where most people’s attention would be caught. Christopher Walken as Gabriel is flat out a great choice. His credits have always been great, starting in 1953, so he was 40 years into his career at the time of shooting on this film. His previous credits are varied and numerous, including The Sentinel, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, Communion, King of New York, McBain, Batman Returns, True Romance, and Wayne’s World 2 to name but a few. The man was established with a capital E. He even had a few horror titles in there and a few films that were already cult films or on the verge of becoming cult films. He clearly was the best choice here. Working with him as Thomas, a name that was absolutely not accidental, is Elias Koteas, a man most of us remember as Casey Jones in the first and third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action film, but at the time of The Prophecy’s release he was also known for his work on Some Kind of Wonderful, Blood River, Desperate Hours, Almost an Angel, Cyborg 2, and more. The man was and still is quite active with lots of good roles on his resume. In a 2011 interview, he said that he “was given an opportunity, a great character, but [he] just felt like [he] missed the boat on that one” when talking about his part as Thomas Daggett on The Prophecy. Fans of the film would beg to differ here. Playing Mary here is Virginia Madsen who had recently been in Candyman and thus very familiar to horror fans. Eric Stoltz played Simon, another character named after the bible, and was known to genre fans for his work on The Fly II, but was also known for Say Anything, Pulp Fiction, Killing Zoe, and a bunch more. They were joined by Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer, a man who needs no introduction these days, but back in 1995, he was known to horror fans for his part in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III. To others, he was known as a character actor from movies like Witness, Young Guns II, The Reflective Skin, Carlito’s Way, American Yakuza, and a bunch more. The cast for The Prophecy was not only well-rounded and carefully selected, but it was also filled with respected actors.

The film was eventually released in theaters on September 1st, 1995. The film hit number three on box office that weekend, just behind Mortal Kombat at number one and Dangerous Minds at number two. Mortal Kombat, for better or for worse, had a much larger marketing campaign, a much larger budget at $20 million, and a built-in fanbase who were looking forward to the film. The fact it hit number one is not surprising and neither is the fact that it stayed at number one for three weeks. Now, whether the film being good or bad is a whole other thing. Dangerous Minds was a film with a big push as well, a solid lead in Michelle Pfeiffer, and a potential award season early entry. It also had a larger budget and a wider appeal with its underdog kids’ story that was made to appeal to a larger part of the population. The fact that The Prophecy came in third, below these two shows that it had something that appealed to some audiences. The Prophecy had less than half the budget for each of those films and it lacked both a previously established fan base and award buzz. In terms of box office, the amounts of money the other films made were fairly large. Over $122 million for Mortal Kombat and over $179 million for Dangerous Minds. They were big hits for 1995. So, how much did The Prophecy make while fighting for attention in theaters against these two? The total box office for The Prophecy is listed at $16.1 million USD. That is not a whole lot in comparison, but it’s enough for the film to make its budget and cost back with a bit of profit, especially once the home video market is taken into consideration.

The Prophecy WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

In terms of home video, the film did find an audience there for sure as well as on cable television as the mid to late 1990s were a great time for this. The Prophecy was released on video in March 1996 and eventually made its way through the different levels of cable television, starting with pay-per-view, then premium channels, and eventually making it to basic channels where some of them cut bits and pieces here and there to be able to include the ad breaks. These days, it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as streaming on and off, seemingly constantly changing platforms. Having Christopher Walken as the sole face on the poster and artwork usually associated with the film definitely still helps it get seen by random people looking for something fun to watch, but it’s more of a cult film than something folks easily recognize and pick up these days.

Today, The Prophecy seems to have disappeared from the general consciousness, but it still comes up here and there and has a dedicated fans base that truly loves it. It’s one of those films that is worth tracking down and checking out. Its sequels are of varying quality with a drop in positive reviews that keeps dropping and dropping with each subsequent sequel. Nonetheless, these sequels are interesting to check out, even if just to see how they keep making those. The original is the one to watch and the one that deserves the most attention, even 30 years after its filming and nearly 30 years after its release.

A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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