Writer David Seltzer (THE OMEN) returns to the theme of an underaged Antichrist in THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL, a bland, brooding horror effort that would have trouble scaring up yawns, much less screams. The film premiered on pay-cable prior to a release on home video.
The Etruscans, a religious order steeped in modern science and led by the devilish Fr. Simeon (Maximilian Schell), prepare for the return of Lucifer as predicted by a 500-year-old astronomical clock. In Boston, Etruscan expert Norah Stanton (Wendy Crewson) meets Simeon and mysteriously commits
suicide. Several weeks later, her grieving husband Hugh (Christopher McDonald) and 15-year-old daughter Lucy (Rachael Leigh Cook) travel to Italy so that Lucy can take a modeling job secretly arranged by Simeon. They stay in a chalet near Simeon's monastery.
Within the monastery, controversial geneticist Dr. Benedetti (Ted Rusoff) has created human bodies that have life, but no soul. Simeon reveals he is using the "blanks" as part of the ritual to welcome Lucifer. At the same time, mysterious accidents claim the lives of several children--whom Simeon
has dubbed "angels"--whose facial skin is removed and grafted onto the blanks, one of whom Lucifer will inhabit. Hugh begins to connect his wife's death to Simeon and confronts him. Realizing that Lucy is in danger, he races to save her, but she is strangled by the reins of two horses. At the
hospital, her brain-dead body is stolen. Hugh races to the monastery where he discovers Lucy among the blanks. He kills two of Simeon's protectors, starts a fire in the process, and races off with Lucy in his arms. Declared dead, Lucy suddenly comes back to life and reveals that she is really an
THE OMEN (1976) was an effective terror-tale because of its use of a six-year-old child as the emobodiment of evil. THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL takes the more common approach of having a pretty teenager stalked by older men. The result is a chaotic mix of unmemorable characters and blunted suspense,
despite the presence of an ominous musical score and initially striking visual effects (which soon grow threadbare). Worse yet, the confusing nature of the plot seems to indicate that the film was severely edited.
Seltzer's inventive premise--concerning a Satanic religious order which combines modern science and the supernatural to make the antichrist human--is never fully explored. For instance, it is never entirely clear which bodies in the hospital are blanks and which are the real children. Latter parts
of the story pick up the pace, but the ending is a big letdown in which the conflict between Fr. Simeon and Hugh merely fizzles out.
Performances are adequate, with a wild-looking Maximilian Schell hamming it up in the bad-guy role, while McDonald often overdoes his pseudo-heroic role, never really appearing likable or sympathetic. Stanley Tucci, whose small role as Hugh's brother disappears at the end, might have been a better
choice to play the father. Cook possesses exceptional beauty and shows great promise, but her talents aren't properly displayed in this role. Special effects are minimal, but the Italian locations do much to provide a menacing atmosphere. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer David Seltzer (THE OMEN) returns to the theme of an underaged Antichrist in THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL, a bland, brooding horror effort that would have trouble scaring up yawns, much less screams. The film premiered on pay-cable prior to a release on home… (more)