These Angels Don’t Fear To Tread Anywhere

“It’s not as odd as it sounds,” Hollywood screenwriter Gregory Widen said by way of introducing his new picture, “The Prophecy.” “A story about a group of angels gone bad has all the makings of a thrilling adventure - might call it ‘The Theological Terminator.”’

But how it sounds can mean everything in the mass-marketing of a movie, and Miramax Pictures has been struggling with this tough-sell epic almost up to the last minute before its opening today.

Rampant title changes - from “God’s Army” to “Daemon,” to the present title - and a refusal to screen the film for review have betrayed the studio’s lack of confidence in a filmmaker with an impressive record of making hits.

Widen’s original screenplays include the mythological fantasy “Highlander” (1986) and the firefighter thriller “Backdraft” (1991). He debuts as a director on “The Prophecy,” which stars Christopher Walken and Eric Stoltz as supernatural rivals in a war on humanity. Miramax’s slogan-makers call the picture “a terrifying new supernatural thriller in the tradition of ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Omen,”’ but Widen sees it as merely a continuation of arguments he launched in the earlier films.

“Y’gotta remember,” said Widen, 37, “the most salient experiences of my life were that I was an altar boy and a fireman - two ritual-driven and highly guarded, semisecret societies. These experiences, these memberships in closed traditions, were highly influential in shaping my writing career.”

Widen stops short of calling “The Prophecy” a third installment in some trilogy, but his point becomes clear: “Highlander” and its sequels imagine a secretive race of near-immortal beings waging a holy war across the centuries. “Backdraft” hinges on firefighters’ rituals and traditions, culminating in their war against an elemental menace.

“The Prophecy,” according to a synopsis, imagines the archangel Gabriel (Walken) pulling a Lucifer and seeking to dethrone the Judeo-Christian God as ruler of the heavenly realm.

“I’m coming off Milton, of course,” said Widen, alluding to “Paradise Lost.”

“In a way, the story is my reaction to the ‘angel renaissance’ we’ve seen these last few years, with people coming forth with all these stories of how ‘My angel saved my life’ and ‘My angel this’ and ‘My angel that.’ It’s all gotten pretty egocentric, with people professing to believe in these angels as beings that exist only to serve.

“I’d figure that angels are a formidable bunch, and could get pretty scary if they wanted,” said Widen. “Anyway, that’s what the picture is about, and I feel certain it’ll make people think and thrown some good scares at ‘em, besides.”

xxxx “The Prophecy” Location: East Sprague, North Division and Coweur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Gregory Widen, starring Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Eric Stoltz, Maria Snyder, Virginia Madsen Running time: 1:32 Rating: R

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