Cinema/TV, Film Notes

TV series review – Revelations (2005)

My notes on the TV series Revelations.This End of Days-themed miniseries, consisting of six forty-minute ‘hours’ – was written and produced by David Seltzer – who not only rehashes the research he did on the Coming of the Antichrist for The Omen but even yokes in a major character (theologian-archaeologist Bugenhagen) from that franchise as a presence in the backstory – and directed by soundalikes Lili Fini Zanuck and Lesli Linka Glatter. Note the preponderance of good Catholic names behind the cameras, which might explain why this plays – unlike the fundamentalist Left Behind films – like a work of science fiction which takes the premise of an alternate world where the Bible is the Gospel Truth and plays out by rules the filmmakers clearly don’t embrace but think make for a good story. There’s nothing actually wrong with that, though this epic Godsploitation exercise is a touch more mealy-mouthed about yoking in Christian viewers than gorier, more potentially blasphemous horror versions of this story that have been around ever since Rosemary got pregnant.

Here, a miniseries-appropriate tangle of relationships bring together folks in locations which either are or look like they could be within a short hop from Canada or the Czech Republic as a bunch of religious goodies and a horde of meanie Satanists prepare for the coming of their matched messiahs. It plays the X Files game of teaming a sceptic and a believer, as astro-physicist Richard Massey (Bill Pullman) is partnered with mystic nun Sister Josepha (Natascha McElhone) on a traipse round the world while all the prophecies come true. Massey is involved because his literally angelic daughter Lucy (Alexa Nikolas) has had her heart ripped out by Satan’s best friend Isaiah Cade (Michael Massee – who sounds like William Hickey and looks like the Joker) and has personally hauled his evil ass back to the States for trial. Isaiah preaches his faith in prison, recruiting a bunch of convicts as ‘Satanai’ (warriors for bad), and has his minions – notably played by Fred Durst, Clémence Poésy and twin cat-eyed supermodels – kidnap Lucy’s stepbrother Henry aka Hawk aka Samael (Mark Rendall) to serve as a substitute sacrifice (or maybe a new acolyte of evil). Isaiah’s lawyer is played by Tobin Bell with a little blonde goatee, so he’s obviously on the side of Satan too – the best the good guys can manage is John Rhys-Davies in a wheelchair as a physics guru, Fionnula Flanagan as a less sexy nun than the heroine, Christopher Biggins (!) as a wobbly Cardinal, Patrick Bauchau as another archaeologist (who leads them to Bugenhagen’s booby-trapped tomb, where some of those Omen daggers are stashed for use against Evil – along with tons of manuscripts and a puzzle-box full of clues all rigged to burn when looked at) and Jesper Christensen as a Christian millionaire who organises an interfaith peace conclave which gets blown up without anyone important to the plot being killed.

It’s full of noise-making stuff that doesn’t add up to a story: Lucy speaks and scribbles through a comatose girl, which prompts nuns to kidnap the patient so she can’t have life-support turned off and have her organs harvested (it’s twice established that organ transplants are Satanic); another saintly nun (Winter Ave Zoli) has given birth immaculately, to a child who may not or may be Christ reborn (in the end he is, but the earlier hints that his miracles have an expiration date aren’t revoked); some women around the world are equally unnaturally pregnant (ultrasound shows horns and hooves) but in the end the Antichrist (we don’t see him) is born of a goat while the devil monks seen in generations of horror films lark about in robes; Satanist soldiers stage an assault on a nunnery to kill coma girl and a prison riot which allows Isaiah to escape (he can regenerate a cut-off finger, doesn’t bleed and is vulnerable only to one of those blessed daggers); a new star shows up to remind you of the hero’s job (and the Star of Bethlehem) and an eclipse of one of Saturn’s moons is significant. It’s all so melodramatic and smug that you’d have a sneaking sympathy for Evil, if Massee – one of the most underrated bad guy actors around – weren’t so good at being hateful and bringing life into this trudge. The leads are well-cast, but Pullman just looks tired and grumpy surrounded by signs and wonders and McElhone’s big-eyed, saintly smiling looks silly after a while (her habit of quoting Biblical passages gets old very quickly – do real religious people really throw Bible quotes at each other all the time?). There’s a tiny hint of secular attraction between the divorced hero and the wimple chick (nicknamed the Nutty Professor and the Flying Nun, in a rare funny line) – Sister Jo admits to having an urge to wear something sinfully red, which she later has to do as a disguise but the payoff is a flat let’s-get-on-with-the-world-tour business.

Like most End Times dramas, it winds up with the plot unresolved – the tagline ‘the Greatest Story Ever Told Now Has a Final Chapter’ is an arrant lie – in the hope that the Gods of the Ratings will decree further episodes. The British show Apparitions – which covered similar territory — was even sillier, but more entertaining.


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