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'The Seventh Sign' (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 01, 1988

In "The Seventh Sign," Demi Moore saves the world's bacon. And never has the porkstuff been in more desperate need of saving.

Signs of the apocalypse are everywhere. In Haiti, the beaches are littered with millions of dead fish. In the heart of an Israeli desert, a village -- rumored to have been built on the ruins of Sodom -- is frozen solid by a freak ice storm. In Nicaragua, the rivers run red with blood.

You might think from these events and their datelines that political unrest is behind the catastrophes -- that terrorism, repressive governments and Armageddon are linked. And this is the connection the filmmakers are hoping you will make. But the topical locales are tossed in only to lend a fresh-as-today's-headlines dimension to what is, in essence, a biblical shaggy-dog story.

Basically "The Seventh Sign" is the Book of Revelation played out as a paranoid yuppie fantasy -- "She's Having a Baby" crossed with "The Omen." We could call it "She's Having Rosemary's Baby."

The movie's subtext, as it is channeled through Abby Quinn (Moore), the young pregnant woman at the center of this story, can be expressed as follows: If my baby dies, the world will come to an end. The plot itself is loosely sprung from biblical prophecy. According to the movie's version of the Scriptures, when the Guf -- a k a the Hall of Souls -- is empty, and the first soulless child is stillborn, the Day of Judgment is at hand. Preceding this are six other signs -- things like the moon turning red, earthquakes, dogs and cats sleeping together.

What we have here is a straight-faced presentation of something Bill Murray might have made up in "Ghostbusters." The actual force behind these bizarre, seemingly unconnected events is a single man. A man named David. And he is no mere mortal.

David, played by Jurgen Prochnow, the U-boat captain in "Das Boot," is a messenger of the apocalypse, a tough gig by any standard. An intense kind of guy, a definite Type A personality, David has a flair for the dramatic. And even if we didn't witness the havoc he wreaks by breaking the little seals on his mysterioso ancient documents, we'd know he was bad news simply from the chanting and tolling on the sound track.

David and Abby cross paths when he responds to an ad that she and her husband (Michael Biehn) have taken out for a room they're trying to rent. Though this looks like coincidence, it's not. David has plans for Abby, who, it seems, has had some difficult pregnancies.

But any problems that Abby might have had in the past are nothing compared with what's in store. When she begins to suspect that her boarder is not the ancient-languages expert he claims to be, Abby enlists the aid of a young student (Manny Jacobs), who, with a little research, helps her determine that David is Christ come back to earth to deliver God's wrath. Which only goes to show that you can't be too careful about who you let sleep over your garage.

Director Carl Schultz lays the narrative out in portentous fragments, the significance of which is revealed only as the film slouches to its end. The filmmakers aren't satisfied merely to supply shocks; there's a moral here. The only thing standing in the way of the world's fiery destruction is, to quote the press materials, "one woman's hope." But what, in the face of all this, can a lone woman do? Why, break the chain of signs and thwart the apocalypse, that's what. And look pretty darn foxy doing it, too.

Moore, who was actually pregnant throughout the shooting of the film, has a husky-throated sensuality that gives the character of Abby some presence, but the part is pitched too hysterically for her to make anything out of it. She seems to have invested something in the role, though; to her credit, her performance is not a walk-through.

There's evidence of sweat in what the Australian Schultz has contributed, but not of talent. And, remarkably, his heart seems to be in the movie's message. But how are we to react to people who aspire to saving the world through hope, but can't shoot a simple dialogue scene? Wouldn't it be better if they fretted less about man's fate and paid more attention to their craft?

"The Seventh Sign" contains some nudity.

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