The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000)

JULY 5, 2011


Nearly every big blockbuster that comes along these days is said to be “the first in a planned trilogy”, even though nine times out of ten that movie will bomb and never get even one sequel, let alone two, OR it’s a big hit and then they make a lot more than just a trilogy. Also, apart from things like Star Wars (original) or (arguably) The Matrix, there’s nothing really tying them. all together in a meaningful way. If you watch the Transformers “trilogy”, you get a largely incoherent story about a dorky kid gradually becoming an asshole, I guess, but with half of the plot of 3 contradicting what came before, calling it a true trilogy is a bit insulting. And that’s what makes The Prophecy 3 all the more surprising; even though it’s a DTV sequel to a movie written/directed by folks who had nothing to do with the original film, it’s actually a fine and fitting followup to the stories of both the first and second films, with a unexpectedly moving climax to the character arc of Gabriel.

Now, it’s not exactly a lost masterpiece that deserves to be placed alongside The Descent and Trick R Treat as the greatest horror films of the 00s – it’s a bit low on action (it’s hard to even count it as a horror series by this point) and there’s a disconnect between the players, as if they never had more than two or three actors at once (Walken doesn’t share a single scene with the “villain” of the film, more on him later). But this is Dimension we’re talking about here! It’s a wonder they even bothered spelling the character’s names right, let alone bringing them back from the previous two films. In addition to Walken and Steve Hytner again (in his biggest role yet, though he disappears after delivering a bunch of exposition and still doesn’t actually interact with Gabriel), they also bring back a pair of characters from the original; one for random fan service more than anything (it’s a nice surprise but it doesn’t really fit into the story), and another for pretty hilarious comic relief.

But the bulk of the story is a continuation of Prophecy 2, as the now grown son of Danyael and Valerie (who, like Daggett, is played by a new actor and killed instantly) is hunted by Zophael, who has taken over for Gabriel as “Angel who wants to start war and make it like it was”. So who is the good angel this time? Well, Gabriel, actually, even though he is not an angel anymore. As he has been on Earth as a human for 18 years or so, he has actually grown to love the “monkeys” and has even learned to drive, so he does his best to keep Danyael from joining his former team. His presence is a bit muted compared to the previous film, which is a bit of a shame as it would have been fun to see more of Gabriel/Walken as a powerless human, but I love that they gave him a new motivation without really changing his demeanor (read: he’s still hilarious), and his final scene is actually quite touching, bringing him full circle in a way you don’t expect to see in a movie that could just as easily have been a name-only cash-in (as it seems the next two sequels might be as they seemingly have all new characters).

As I said though, he’s not in it as much (I’d estimate Walken’s total screen time is about 20 minutes, maybe 25). Most of it is given to Vincent Spano as Zophael, who’s sort of the way Gabriel was in the first film but not nearly as charismatic or amusing (though he has a nice bit with a donut shop employee – the angels in this movie are all sugar addicts). It’s a bit like Terminator 2 in that you know that both of these guys are after a kid who one of them tried to kill before he was even born in the previous film, but you’re unsure which one is trying to keep him safe this time. It’s revealed fairly quickly, which is fine because it wouldn’t make much sense for Gabriel to be trying to “recruit” him as he was no longer an angel (and, being stuck on earth, he didn’t have much else to do in the meantime and thus he wouldn’t wait 18 years), but it’s still a nice touch.

However that’s also part of the problem, as the movie spends too much time on these two fighting or trying to get to Danyael, and not enough on the movie’s “big bad”, another Angel named Pyriel. Pyriel wants to overthrow God, but I was a bit vague on what Zophael wanted to do – was he on Pyriel’s side, or against him? At any rate, they definitely should have made him more of a real presence in the movie, not as some guy we see in flashes during dream sequences and then finally for real when the movie’s about 10 minutes away from the ending. That or just combined Pyriel and Zophael’s stories into one and thus made the battle lines a little less murky.

The movie also wastes too many character actors. Jack McGee pops up as a detective, and I was excited about the idea of a police presence again, but he only has the one scene early on (and its so superfluous they might as well have just cut it entirely) and is then never mentioned again. Brad Dourif also pops up and then dies before the first reel is through – I was hoping to see him face off against Walken, but the two never interact. And again, Hytner’s all over the movie early on but then he disappears too. So it feels a bit at times like they either condensed a much longer script into this one, or cut it down to its meager 84 minutes in post (the IMDb reports a 103 min run time for Argentina, but I assume this is rubbish).

But if it was re-edited, it doesn’t show; it doesn’t LOOK like a re-edited film, it just seems like they rushed through some stuff on the script level – but then again, a great editor can hide those signs. And they had one on board - this was Patrick Lussier’s directing debut after a long editorial career (his skill was sorely missed on Scream 4), and it’s quite impressive for a first timer (it’s actually better than his theatrical followup, Dracula 2000). As with the others, there’s some dry humor (mostly from Walken), but it never gets silly – the focus is always on the rather serious subject matter, and it moves along quite well until that rushed finale. The action bits are also exciting – I loved the chase downtown, with Zophael going after Danyael, and Gabriel showing up in the car he’s still not quite that great at driving. I also dug the weapon Zophael used in his fight with Danyael, a sort of retractable blade/bo combo that also had this little heart-scooper tool on the end. Pretty awesome, so kudos to whoever designed it.

I just wish it was used a bit more. I basically just described all of the action of note in the film. Not that the previous films were Bay-style action fests, but as the movie got closer to its conclusion I realized that had it not been for its ties to the other films, this wouldn’t even really be a horror movie in the slightest. Gone are the creepy visuals and soul possession of the first film, and Gabriel doesn’t take a zombie-esque assistant this time around. Pyriel is kind of creepy looking, but no more than one of those albino assholes in the Matrix sequels (and again, he’s barely in it). And the one immolation is more or less off-screen (and in the first 30 seconds anyway). Part of the cool thing about the original was that these angels weren’t all that angelic, and instead going around kicking ass and tearing hearts out and what not, so it’s a bit of a bummer that they’re a bit more passive this time around. Hell I don’t even think they put anyone to sleep with their little “touch the forehead and say sssh” move.

Still, again, they could have just slapped the title on any old script and convinced Walken to show up for a single scene, but they actually put some effort into it and made a film that tied closely with the others. As I mentioned in my article about the Saw films, it’s rare that a horror franchise actually does right by the fans in terms of actor/story continuity, especially when you enter the land of direct to video, so when it happens I am always quite appreciative. Apparently, someone asked Walken about his favorite films that he had done, and he answered “my angel movies” (maybe because they are called God’s Army in other countries) – the guy has done like 100 movies including a few Oscar nominated films (he himself won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter), so that he would single out a trilogy of horror movies (2/3 of which went direct to video) is pretty telling. I just hope the series does OK without him. I'll find out later this week!

What say you?


  1. I will be talking this about my friends. Outstanding read!

  2. I didnt even know there was a Prophecy 3! I'll have to check this out. Good read, man.


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