Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The Prophecy: Uprising

O Lord, why can't this movie have subtitles?”

Twenty some years have passed since the last movie, Danyael Jr. now grown up and making his way as a street preacher preaching about God no longer caring about mankind. His world view is based off a traumatic childhood where once again the rebel angels tried to kill him, but ended up killing his mother instead.  The former Archangel Gabriel, still a human, has been secretly guarding Danyael his entire life. Gabriel has repented his evil ways and now loves humanity, living life to its fullest. Zophael, who has replaced Gabriel as the leader of the angels, has come to Earth with a plan to revive the Angel of Genocide Pyriel, who will kill all life on Earth and replace God... somehow.

Zophael wants to kill Danyael before he can stop Pyriel, but this all goes awry and Danyael does in fact kill the angel, despite being one of the least convincing heroes in film history. God rewards Gabriel for his changed ways by making him an angel again, and Gabriel exits the franchise in a burst of white doves.

The co-writer of the previous film, Joel Soisson, stepped up to the plate to make this one in his directorial debut.  This means we have someone on board who at least knows the material, and hopefully can bridge things into a worthy sequel.  So where do they go from here? Well, the Second War of the Angels still seems unresolved so I'm thinking that's where we'll start. Get ready for a fresh start on the franchise with A Ghoul Versus The Prophecy: Uprising.

Our film opens with real historical footage of a parade in Romania honouring President Nicolae Ceasescu and his wife Elena. Throughout the ceremony, a man narrates over the footage:

“I am here to find one lost soul. I have no interest in tyrants or heroes, rather I prefer the lives of smaller men, the ones left behind.”

We see the speaker, a dark haired man, Forrest Gumped into the footage of the President. We then cut to a title card that tells us it's 25 years later in “Eastern Europe”, which makes no sense because we JUST saw it's Romania! I'm thinking the production of this film was not a smooth one.  We get a POV shot of the driver of a car driving through a rather unsavory looking neighbourhood, stopping when the driver catches the attention of a drug dealer.  The drug dealer starts running, eventually getting hit by a car and we OFFICIALLY have a Prophecy movie! Yes the car didn't hit him into a wall, but I'm still going with it.

The driver of the car eventually catches up to him, and here we have my biggest problem with the film alluded to in the teaser at the beginning. The accents in this movie are THICK, almost to the point of being incomprehensible. The Blu-Ray set I bought has no subtitles built into it, and when you're undead like myself with rotting ear canals hearing is already an issue for me let alone having to deal with this.  Long story short, the driver of the car is a police officer named Dani Simionescu who likes to shake down drug dealers for their money because it's 2005 and the definition of a hero has gone right down the tubes.

As Dani leaves, we get a very quick shot of a man in black perched on the building above the drug dealer. I really really wish I could say it's Christopher Walken, but it's not.  We cut to a church and- bloody hell it's Kari Wuhrer! You may remember her and her rather suspect acting ability from B and C-Movie fare like Kate's Addiction, Luscious, Sex And The Other Man, The Beastmaster 2, and, uh, The Prophecy: Uprising. Her star's clearly on the rise now though, she's going to be in Sharknado 2!

She works at the church as a clerk or something, making brief eye contact with Dani, who has just entered. Dani puts all the money he stole from the drug dealer into the church's collection box.  Kari has a rather large scar on the side of her face, but her beauty hasn't changed at all. Let's hope her acting has.  Dani exits the church to find the dark haired man from the beginning of the movie leaning against his car. He introduces himself as John Riegert of Interpol, and he needs Dani's help solving a case. Although both these men are very hard to understand at times, they do have a good rapport where they play off each other in a buddy cop show I would so watch. One's a mumbling psychopath, the other's a mumbling psychopath!  Catch "Bad Cop/Bad Cop", Mondays on NBC!

Back at church they are closing up, the Father of church going into the basement where he enters a secret passage. Inside is an ancient Bible he begins to read from, words forming on blank pages in the back as he does. He suddenly has a heart attack and drops dead, although it's made to seem the process of using this Bible caused his heart to fail. Kari goes looking for him, as he had dropped his necklace earlier.  Dani and John drive to a crime scene where we find the drug dealer Dani robbed earlier. He is now dead by apparent suicide of jumping out of a nearby bell tower. John finds a coin on the body, Dani telling him it's an old belief that will buy his passage into Heaven. They also find the dealer's heart is missing, which means he was an angel. An angel who was selling drugs and got beaten up by a normal cop?

Also of note in this scene is a priest across the street holding a board and hitting it with a hammer. Why? I have literally no idea. I think the director of this has been watching too many David Lynch movies.  They climb the bell tower to investigate, meeting up with two other cops that call themselves Laurel and Hardy.  That is not a joke, but instead is a fresh reference for the year 2005, right?  The actor who plays Laurel is Doug Bradley, whom you probably know as Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies. I don't think his career ever really survived the eighth movie Hellraiser: Hellworld, a movie so bad that it pretty much killed the franchise dead. I plan to review it (as well as the entire series) someday, as it features a very early role from Mr. Man Of Steel himself, Henry Cavil.

The four men hear a noise upstairs, but find nothing except a message saying “HELLO DANI SIMIONESCU” painted on the wall in what I assume is blood.  Elsewhere in the city, a maid sees a pack of wild dogs attacking a woman. She grabs a stick and chases them away, but immediately regrets this as she looks down at the woman and sees she has pointed teeth. The feral woman grabs her, the next shot is the maid getting up with glowing evil eyes and walking away.  The now possessed maid enters the church looking for the Bible, but runs into the ghost of Simon from the first movie.  The hell?

Gabriel died in the first movie but came back with a body in the second one, but I guess Simon comes back as a ghost? I really have no idea, this barely feels like a Prophecy movie outside of that guy getting hit by a car.  Simon and the maid talk, and her accent is as hard to understand as Dani's. We learned her name is Belial and she's looking for a book called the Lexicon. Simon tells her it's in safe hands.  Back at her apartment, Kari looks through the Bible, which is the Lexicon Belial is looking for. Simon tells her she has to leave as Belial is on the way. It's insinuated here Kari is a bit crazy and takes medication to make the voices in her head go away, but the voices have been Simon all along. Kind of a jerk move of him to make her think she's crazy without explaining things a bit better.

Dani drops off John in another unsavoury part of town, John saying he lives nearby. Dani gets out of his car to follow him but he's vanished. Hey, what was the case John needed Dani's help on? They haven't mentioned that at all!  But I'm sure they just got sidetracked with the whole dead drug dealing angel thing and they'll get cracking on that case first thing tomorrow morning. Or not, the next day they get called in about the dead woman in the park mauled by dogs. Her heart is missing.

Does that mean she was an angel too? She clearly possessed the maid, but I don't understand why she'd tear the heart out of her old body. Belial arrives at the morgue where the dead Father's body is. She kills the mortician on duty by... sticking her finger in her mouth?  She enters the back room where the body lies, prying open his eyelid and oh no, please don't- rhaargh! Yup, instead of going with any of the awesome things from the first three movies, they went with the eyeball licking. This allows her to see everything the Father saw, as she is able to see Kari gain possession of the Lexicon... which she ALREADY FREAKING KNEW! We just saw her go to Kari's apartment looking for her. What did this accomplish?

An undertaker catches Belial messing with the body and asks what she's doing. Belial grabs him and kisses him, which allows her to take over his body. He rips out the maid's heart and I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE HEART TEARING ANYMORE!  At Police HQ, Dani is on an online chat forum asking if anyone's had any cases about hearts getting ripped out of bodies. A Joseph_1995 answers- ha! It's Joseph from the original trilogy, and 1995 is the year the first Prophecy movie came out. Cute. Really though, they couldn't get Steve Hytner to reprise his role? What was he doing in 2005 that kept him SO busy?

Joseph tells Dani that ripping the heart out makes a body uninhabitable for angels and then signs off, because he realizes how stupid that is and doesn't want to get called out on it. While Dani is doing this, we see John outside the station perched on a ledge which hints he's an angel.  Maybe. Who knows at this point? Nowhere in this series has an angel ever possessed someone, they're brainwashed them through whispering in their ear but nothing like we're seeing.

John has Dani drive him to an old abandoned mansion, revealing this was the headquarters for the brutal secret police that used to run the country. They go downstairs where Dani has visions of a man and a woman being tortured and killed. John narrates this flashback for us to reveal they were Dani's parents, and that Dani had a little sister as well. His sister got her face slashed open during the capture of her parents, taken away and put into an orphanage. He also reveals Dani is the one who turned his parents in to the government, as he was only six years old and doing what he was taught to do.

At a cafe, Kari meets with her friend Ion, who is a priest of some sort. She shows him the Lexicon, which he reads to discover the writing at the end is a new chapter of Revelations. He tells her about a theory that Revelations is incomplete, awaiting further dictation from the God. There is a book called the Prophet's Lexicon, that whoever holds it holds the fate of humanity in their hands. He gets a nosebleed from reading the book, because this is a supernatural movie and SOMEONE has to have one dammit!

It's here I want to point out how UTTERLY AWFUL Kari's acting is here. Her reaction to finding out she's the one who holds the fate of humanity is just embarrassingly bad. To top it off, despite being born and raised in Romania she doesn't even ATTEMPT to pull off an accent so she sounds completely out of place here She sounds like a Valley Girl and constantly takes you out of the movie's admittedly well done creepy atmosphere everytime she opens her mouth. She also has this perma-concerned look chiseled into her face for 95% of the movie, which actually might be due to a botox overdose.

Ion goes into the bathroom to deal with his nosebleed, where he's possessed by Belial who once again de-hearts his ex-body. He exits the bathroom to find Kari gone, warned by Simon once again. In a fit of anger, Belial slams the heart down on a young woman's plate. Um hello, she ordered THE SPLEEN! Geez, the service at this place...  John, who realizes the guy writing this movie has no idea how to tell a story, decides to bail him out and tell Dani the entire plot of the movie:

-His sister is “the heart of the prophecy”, and she still lives in the city.
-To an angel, like man, the Word of God is everything.
-The Lexicon will come to contain the final Word, and whoever holds it will have a huge inside edge over everyone else.

In the first movie, Tommy Wiseau had a Bible in his pocket that had an unwritten chapter of Revelations in it. This chapter talked about the Second War of the angels and that a dark soul on Earth would turn the tide in their war. Now it's... something else? Or was it not finished in the first movie even? Was God using the Father to transcribe the final Word into the Bible? Why would God do this? Why would he give information to help either side?

Dani goes on to ask John what side he's on, the dark haired man replying he's “the lesser of two evils”. They return to the police station, John stopping to put a coin on a junkie sitting in a chair. Dani asks why he did that and John replies because the junkie will be dead of an overdose in three hours and we'll be needing that in the afterlife. This makes Dani realize John killed the drug dealer earlier.

“I wanted you to feel personally involved in the case.” is John's answer when Dani asks him why, which is quite possibly one of the stupidest reasons ever. Killing a drug dealer got him involved more than the hunt for his long lost sister? Dani asks if he killed all the others, to which John replies no.

Laurel and Hardy arrive to tell the two they have a man in custody who confessed to killing the undertaker, but will only talk to John. Belial and John sit in the interrogation room, and we learn Belial used to serve John. Belial suddenly gets sick, and vomits a bat out of his mouth that flies into Laurel to turn him evil.  Dani enters the interrogation room to check on Belial's body, but John tells him that's not necessary as he places his heart on the table.  Belial, now in Laurel's body, walks up the stairs to leave the place, Hardy following him and asking what he's doing. Belial tells him he'll kill him if he doesn't leave him alone.

Dani asks John why he did that, John telling him you never want to see a body alive after its soul's been discarded. Huh? They're still alive then? Do they come back as demons or something? What about the whole “stops angels from possessing them again” business? Does an angel get more powerful if it possesses a body that's previously been possessed? SINCE WHEN DO ANGELS POSSESS PEOPLE ANYWAY?!  I know it's really stupid to get upset over a Straight To Video sequel that has nothing to do with the originals, but come on! They had FIVE years between movies to at least try to nail the details of an established franchise! I seriously wonder if this wasn't a completely different movie they decided to slap a “Prophecy” title on at the last second.

Let's get this over with, Belial shoots Hardy and escapes, Dani and John in pursuit.  Kari calls another priest friend since she got her last one murdered. It might actually be her stepbrother, they don't care enough to let us know. He gives her information on Belial, telling her he's a fallen angel who joined Satan's army but ended up rebelling against his master to try to create a new Hell.  Okay, I get that John is really Satan but isn't this series about Heaven versus a group of rebel angels? Now it's about Hell versus a group of rebel demons? Why would God put information in the Lexicon that would help THEM out?

Simon once again tells Kari she's not safe and needs to leave. We see while Kari was talking to her maybe stepbrother, she was absentmindedly doodling on a notepad. It turns out she drew the mansion from earlier in the film.  As they try to find Belial, John tells Dani he's going to try to kill Kari before she can get to the house. How does he know she's going there? Because he's Satan and knows everything, duh! Dani asks why, John telling him because Belial has no power in the house.  Belial sees Kari down the street asking a taxi driver if he knows where the building is she drew. The demon starts running towards her but Dani HITS HIM WITH HIS CAR!  If they ever make a Prophecy video game and it's NOT a crash-based racing game I'll be severely disappointed.

Kari jumps in the taxi and they take off for the house. John tells Dani to “follow that taxi!” and my Cliche-O-Meter breaks.  Belial flags down a car driving by, pulling out his police badge and telling him to follow them as the wreckage of my Cliche-O-Meter bursts into flames.  Kari arrives at the house first, the taxi taking off the second she gets out. She'll just... walk home, I guess?  Everyone else arrives soon after, and we get a huge face off climax that amounts to... PEOPLE STANDING AROUND AND TALKING FOREVER!  Insanely long dialogue short, Belial tells Kari to give him the book. Dani tells her not to do it, and she asks if he's another demon. He reveals he's her brother and that he's the one who turned their parents into the police. He apologizes, saying all he ever wanted to do was be forgiven.

They don't go anywhere with this as Belial starts yammering on again. He threatens Kari, but John tells her he can't harm her because he controls this house. Something about since it was Hell on Earth it's part of his domain now... I don't know, they're just throwing out any line right now and hoping it sticks at this point.  To prove this, Dani pulls a gun on Belial after doing this weird thing where he takes all of the bullets out of his clip except for two: one for the demon and one for himself. What if you miss, hotshot? Bet you'll feel hella dumb then! I can just see that, he misses and awkwardly scrambles around on the floor looking for the bullets he dropped while everyone else avoids making eye contact.

Belial tells him how stupid this is, as he'll just take over Dani's body if he shoots him. But Dani, who isn't exactly the Shiniest Penny in the Drawer, shoots him anyway and SURE ENOUGH, Dani coughs up a bat to possess him. Did this movie ever have a script or were they just WINGING it? Heh... cos he's a bat, and... uh... moving on.  Kari, who has done nothing for most of this film except cradle the Lexicon in her arms, shoots the possessed Dani.  A black silhouette that is Belial's true form rises out of the body, scowls at John, and leaves. Kari kneels over Dani, saying “he never needed her forgiveness, not like I need yours now”. Don't feel too bad for him, I have a feeling he's making next year's Darwin Awards for his death.

She goes outside where John is. He didn't think he had enough lines in the previous scene, so he does his hardest to make up for lost time. He touches her face and she gets a montage vision of her own death, which I suspect is spoilers for the next movie. He tells her to sleep well and vanishes in a burst of black birds.

Cue the credits.

I truly believe this script began as a different movie before it somehow became a Prophecy movie. With the exception of cars hitting people and... sigh... eyeball licking, this was at odds with everything established in the previous movies.  I guess the acting was bad, but it's hard to say because that would require me to actually be able to understand it. 28 Days Later, surrender your title of “Most Inaudible Dialogue In A Movie”, thank you very much.

Dani and John have some nice moments, but overall they're as bland as everyone else in this movie.  The first three movies had heroes you gave a damn about- hm, scratch that. The first two movies had heroes you gave a damn about because they were good people facing dark forces, and we cared about them.  We also got a peek into their personal lives so we got to know them as a character.  Here our heroes are a rogue cop who abuses his power and Satan himself, who kills a guy for no good reason whatsoever.  We never get to see Dani do anything in his personal life, so the only thing we know about him is he's a total asshole.  Oh, and Kari Wuhrer who carries a book around.  Yeah.

When I was doing my post review research on this movie, I found out this and the next movie were filmed at the exact same time, which means it's highly likely the footage we saw of Kari dying will happen in the next movie in some capacity. So maybe, JUST MAYBE, some of the story will make more sense after seeing that one.  BUT, a movie should always be able to stand alone even if it's part of a larger story, and this one sure as hell does not. It does have some REALLY NICE cinematography and it has a genuinely creepy feel for most of the film, but other than that this is just bad. And not even Straight To Video Bad where it's kind of good, but just all around bad. Avoid unless you're a hardcore fan of the original movies with a good size masochistic streak.

Can the fifth and final movie in the series redeem this piece of rubbish?  Find out here!