Home Video Hovel: The Seventh Sign, by David Bax
Carl Schultz’ The Seventh Sign, out now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, was released in 1988 and probably should have stayed there. At least at the time it had some star power going for it, with Michael Biehn and a baby-faced Demi Moore as the film’s central couple, two actors who were among the biggest stars of the decade. Other than that, though, there’s very little to recommend this confused, lazy, stubbornly un-curious movie about the biblical end of the world.
Clifford and Ellen Green’s screenplay starts off with some globe-hopping in an attempt to replicate the way The Exorcist or even The Omen connected their supernatural darkness from the modern world to the ancient one. Then it settles in Los Angeles where a quiet, mysterious man (Jürgen Prochnow) rents a room behind the home of an young, expecting, married couple, Abby and Russell (Moore and Biehn). Eventually, we learn that there is more to this boarder than meets the eye and there’s no to coincidence to his arriving during Abby’s pregnancy and while Russell, the defense attorney, is overseeing a murder trial where the death penalty is on the table. Soon enough, the end times are upon them; for evidence, look no further than the fact it starts hailing in the Fairfax district.
This should all be exciting but Schultz’ execution is so soggy and po-faced, he actually turns the apocalypse into something of a bore. It doesn’t help that the Greens hit so many tired tropes of the genre (horror movies and dogs are a bad mix) and of cinema as a whole. Given that most of the plot developments come from the Bible, we are left with a whole lot of scenes in which people read out loud for no reason other than that we need to learn what they’re learning.
Maybe the biggest reason The Seventh Sign would benefit from remaining in 1988 forever is that Michael Tolkin’s strange, bold, beguiling and powerful The Rapture wouldn’t come out for three more years. As it stands, though, I have seen The Rapture and I can’t help but make comparisons, none of which work in The Seventh Sign’s favor. The Rapture is a thorny film that can be difficult to deal with but that’s largely because of its unwavering commitment and its honesty, both with itself and its audience. The Seventh Sign, on the other hand, is repeatedly dishonest and self-serving, repeating, for example, the same fallacy about the world growing more violent that politicians have repeatedly used to scare us into giving up our freedoms. Here, it’s apparently happening because people have lost faith, which brings me to my next point: The Seventh Sign is blasphemous, which isn’t a problem on its own but it becomes so when the movie keeps insisting that it’s taking the Bible seriously, all the while arrogantly placing man above God in order to serve its masturbatory purpose of reducing religious texts to puzzles meant to be unlocked. The Seventh Sign takes the end of the world and turns it into some sort of Revelation-themed escape room.
On the plus side, Shout!’s transfer is a commendable one. Juan Ruiz Anchía’s cinematography may be, stylistically, as dated as the rest of the movie, what with its hazy textures, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look gorgeous when done right. The Blu-ray has a tactile, filmic feel to it. The audio is in stereo.
Special features include interviews, lots and lots of interviews! The interviewees in these all new discussions include Biehn, Schultz, the Greens, Peter Friedman (who plays a mystical baddie) and John Taylor (who plays Russell’s potentially death row bound client).