The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Seventh Sign

Scream Factory's new Blu-ray edition of The Seventh Sign is an outstanding example of how you can get a whole new perspective on a forgettable old movie. The film, released in 1988, was a critical and commercial flop, earning just $18.8 million at the box office and carrying a 19% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. For good reason, too it's terrible. And yet, the Blu-ray's bonus features are so revealing that watching them after the film helps you understand why it's terrible. The participants are all too eager to discuss their thoughts on what went wrong. That makes this disc an amazing release.

Demi Moore plays Abby Quinn, a young woman who is pregnant again after a miscarriage. She and husband Russell (Michael Biehn) are really hoping this baby arrives okay. One day, they take in a mysterious boarder, David (Jurgen Prochnow), with an unexplained interest in old religious texts. Long story short, Abby discovers that the seven signs of the apocalypse are starting to come true, and there's a creepy priest, Father Lucci (Peter Friedman), who seems intent on ushering it in as quickly as possible. Even worse, her unborn baby appears to be at the center of it all. Is David there to help her or hurt her? And what does defense attorney Russell's death row client, a young man with Down Syndrome, have to do with it?

The Seventh Sign answers those questions with perhaps too much self-seriousness. The movie is a religious thriller with big ideas about the end of the world. It features fearsome hail storms, a blood-red moon, a character who is the second coming of Jesus Christ, and another who is Cartaphilus, the Biblical figure said to have been sentenced by Jesus to live until He returns to the Earth.

The grandiosity of these ideas is undermined by obvious budget limitations, which make the apocalypse feel more than a little underwhelming. Even for the time, the special effects used to create it were mediocre at best. Additionally, many of the performances are over-dramatic, the plot is difficult to follow, and the movie takes itself so seriously that it's often tempting to laugh at it. All in all, The Seventh Sign is a mess.

Then you get to the bonus features and everything rapidly perks up. There's a lengthy interview with director Carl Schultz, who still seems pretty proud of his work. He discusses making indie films abroad, making this picture inside the Hollywood system, and promptly deciding to go back to indies. Another interview is with John Taylor, the actor who plays the inmate. He discusses getting cast and how the other actors helped him with his performance.

Things get a little juicier with Michael Biehn's interview segment. He's lukewarm on the film, acknowledging parts of it that he likes, while still admitting that he can't make heads or tails of the plot. Peter Friedman has a featurette, too, where he discusses the elimination of a character detail Father Lucci's body is deteriorating beneath his frock that, when removed, had the effect of making the rest of his performance a little nonsensical. He points out that viewers have long wondered why the character repeatedly tugs at his collar. The actor included it as an almost subliminal suggestion of his physical discomfort.

The best feature, by far, is the 30-minute interview with the screenwriters, Clifford and Ellen Green. They took their names off The Seventh Sign in protest. Both speak at length about their many gripes with the movie. They felt Demi Moore was way too young to play Abby, as written. They felt Schultz failed to capitalize on the inherent mystery of the plot. They hated that certain scenes were moved around, thereby destroying the clockwork structure they'd so carefully built. The writers even hated the effects, which they felt didn't do justice to the scope of their story. There's not really much bitterness here, although the Greens are absolutely willing to outline their complaints in candid detail.

As bad as the film is, the supplementary material provides enormous insight into how an ambitious, once-promising project went off the rails. The feature itself is difficult to watch. If you can do it, though, and then view the extras shortly afterward, you'll get a fascinating crash course in how an awful movie came to be.

The Seventh Sign will be released on Sept. 11.

The Seventh Sign is rated R for language, nudity, and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.

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