Starring: Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Viggo Mortensen, Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken
Runtime: 98 minutes
Like The Exorcist and The Omen, this is a religious horror film, but instead of Satan or his kin being the enemy, the antagonists in this film are new rebel angels, led by archangel Gabriel (Christopher Walken). Supposedly foretold in an apocryphal 23rd chapter of Revelation, these rebel angels, angered by God’s favoring of humanity, will show their devotion to God by sending humanity to a “new heaven,” which will essentially be another hell.
Walken, always maniacal and scary, is perfect as Gabriel, using his angelic powers (making people unconscious with the slightest touch, creating spontaneous fire, and controlling the unfortunate bodies of the newly reanimated dead) to thwart the efforts of the good angels and the humans who uncover Gabriel’s plan. Detective Thomas Dagget (Elias Koteas), like Gabriel, is a wayward soul. He had almost become a priest, but left the Catholic Church and became a detective after horrific visions of the angelic war came to him. However, his loss of faith comes about through trauma rather than arrogance, so unlike Gabriel, he’s able to find his faith.
Besides the parallels and confrontations between Gabriel and Thomas, there’s a lot going on in this film. There’s some creepy interaction between one of the good angels and a young girl (but that’s only, according to some reviewers, if you’re too American and see sex in everything), Native American culture and rituals (it’s a bit odd that Native American magic helps to save the idea in what is ostensibly a Christian story—making me wonder if the writer was trying to be more ecumenical in his metaphysics), and a Lucifer (Viggo Mortensen) who is almost as creepy as Gabriel, actually working for Gabriel’s downfall (seeing his new heaven as competition).
Critical reception to this has been mixed, and I don’t think it’s aspiring to anything profound. But it’s good if you like something with a supernatural bent rather than a psycho-slasher, plodding monster, or mundane ghost story.