Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Seventh Sign

If my writing seems off, I'm distracted. As I write this, the Cleveland Indians just clinched the American League Pennant, going to the World Series for the first time since 1997. And earlier this year, the Cavs ended Cleveland's championship drought. I won't take any of these as signs of the coming apocalypse unless the Browns starting winning.

The Seventh Sign (1988) tries to be a modern-day Rosemary's Baby with a more apocalyptic bent, but the resulting movie is ultimately not that absorbing, lacking the genuine terror and paranoia of Roman Polanski's masterpiece. It tries, but in the end, it's muddled, predictable, and not particularly scary.

Abby Quinn (Demi Moore) is seven months pregnant and nervous. The last time she and her attorney husband Russell (Michael Biehn) were expecting, the baby did not survive. Anyway, they rent a garage apartment to the mysterious David Bannon (Jurgen Prochnow), who claims to be a teacher of ancient languages. Soon, weird stuff begins happening, and Abby becomes convinced her baby is at the center of a Biblical prophecy that could mean the end of the world.

One of the great strengths of Rosemary's Baby was how we couldn't be sure if Mia Farrow was going crazy or if her neighbors really did have devilish designs on her baby. One of the problems with The Seventh Sign is we're pretty certain from the get-go that something supernatural is really going on. While Rosemary's Baby accumulated tension and progressed its narrative, The Seventh mostly spins its wheels, not really getting anywhere.

With all these prophecies going on - fish dying in Haiti, a town in Israel becoming frozen, etc. - Abby is often just waiting around for stuff to happen and doesn't feel connected to all these other events. There is a nice scene where she is watching TV, and every channel she turns to is a news program covering some sort of war, crime, or other human-made atrocity. David walks in and says how disappointed he is in mankind, having expected it to have changed for the better, but that's really the only time the movie succeeds in conveying the idea the world around the characters is falling apart and affecting them.

Also, Rosemary's Baby spent every scene with Rosemary. We got to know her pretty well, to feel for her plight, and root for her every step of the way. In depicting the signs of the apocalypse in places like Haiti and Israel, along with spending time with Russell and other characters, The Seventh Sign distances the viewer from Abby, nor does it help that Moore turns in a rather bland, vacant performance.

Biehn does what he can, but he's mostly limited to standing on the sidelines trying to calm his wife down. All the time spent on his case - a mentally disabled teenager (John Taylor) scheduled to be executed for killing his parents because they were brother and sister - tips the movie's hand that this will somehow be important in the climax. Prochnow is appropriately mysterious and creepy but given little to do except walk and stand ominously.

The Seventh Sign has some neat apocalyptic imagery - the dead fish on the beach, the frozen desert town - and some of the back story is interesting, especially involving David and a mysterious priest (Peter Friedman) investigating the signs, but little is done with this.

The film admirably tries to tell the story of the apocalypse through a personal narrative, but it just doesn't seem to work as well as it could have. By the time we get to the delivery scene during an earthquake and thunder, the early sense of dread and doom has been long lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment