Saturday, 12 January 2019

Movie Review: The Seventh Sign (1988)


A supernatural thriller, The Seventh Sign imagines the end-of-the-world with a mixture of derived and original ideas.

A series of strange and cataclysmic events occur around the world. All marine life starts to die off the Haitian coast; a town in the Israeli desert is destroyed by a freak ice storm; and many people die in Nicaragua, turning a river red with blood. A brooding stranger (Jürgen Prochnow) breaks a mysterious seal at the location of each apocalyptic event, while Father Lucci (Peter Friedman) investigates the phenomena on the behalf of the Church.

Meanwhile in Venice, California, Abby Quinn (Demi Moore) is pregnant but anxious, having previously miscarried. Her supportive husband Russell (Michael Biehn) is a lawyer trying to save convicted killer Jimmy from the electric chair for murdering his incestuous parents. The stranger, now calling himself David, arrives to rent a carriage house from Abby and Russell. She starts to experience disturbing visions, and finds ancient scrolls in David's possessions leading her to believe he is threat to the unborn child. She reaches out to a rabbi for help, but a young Jewish student is more accommodating and starts to help her interpret Biblical prophecies.

Drawing on elements from Rosemary's Baby, The Omen and The Exorcist, The Seventh Sign feigns a devilish story but then heads in a different direction. Director Carl Schultz and writers Clifford and Ellen Green have a sly agenda in mind, and go searching for more religiously themed interpretation of the end of the world. The film is a combination of a familiar but benign level of spookiness mixed with some clunky execution (perhaps betraying a limited budget) and ending with some nice human-focused touches.

By not conforming to expectations the film both befuddles and surprises, and the wayward oscillations occasionally threaten to hamper enjoyment. The more common components dominate the early scenes and include a likeable but anxious couple, unexplained destructive forces and events, a priest chasing after an explanation, the intermittent intervention of animals seemingly serving a higher purpose, ancient scrolls in impenetrable languages foreshadowing something really bad happening, and the obligatory scenes in creepy churches.

But as The Seventh Sign reveals its real intentions though a slightly jerky left turn, the story becomes less about abominations and more about a here-and-now challenge to Abby, and a more contemplative film emerges.

With a strong assist from Jesus Christ himself, in one of his more unusual and memorable screen appearances, and a game Demi Moore working hard to move past brat pack territory, Schultz lands The Seventh Sign with a tolerable amount of damage. It's always a good sign when the film's better moments arrive late, and by the time the fifth and sixth signs are out of the way and humanity's future is at stake on the delivery table, the momentum and emotions are palpable.






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