Dark Angel

DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT. 1994

Director: Linda Hassani

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



The problem with sex & horror is that in most horror films, "sex" translates "rape" so I tend to prefer horror films that are kind of sexless. There is of course Gothic Romance with lovelorn vampires, more of it written than filmed, & these are all too often even bigger crap. So the idea of a horror film that has a full measure of gore, plus is honestly sexy, is kinda rare in any healthy meaning of sexiness.

But I thought Linda Hassani's Dark Angel was very sexy & it's one of my favorite cheapy horror films. For me it was sexy, sexy, sexy. Being in the sack with such a sweet demon is a hot idea. It affected my sexual fantasies for quite a while, & if I were to watch it again this week, that'd no doubt start up again.

Dark AngelMostly sex-&-horror films are really rape-&-horror designed to turn on the guys who write & direct them &, apparently, the guys who watch them. These make bad "date films" to say the least; even masochistic girls have trouble relating. Sexy horror films that appeal to women will probably remain rare until there are more women directing horror films generally. A woman directed Dark Angel; but a guy wrote it so guys do get some credit. I think such films can, do, & will appeal to a some men as well as women, because not all guys get off on rape-&-slash-the-bitches movies despite loving both horror & sex. But judging from the output, the majority of men (as directors & audience) would probably scoff legitimately romantic horror film & sit in the audience thinking, "Slash her you fool, slash her!"

Dark Angel opens in Hell & shows us the family life of demons. These demons are god-fearing good people who in accordance with God's plan insure that human souls are eternally punished. The images of Hell are more than commonly convincing, not only for the nice design for the winged & horned demons, but for being shot in part inside a ruined castle the stone walls of which permitted real fires to be burning everywhere, with never a sense of it being merely a firegag or a CGI blaze or a backlot set where the FX crew has to be careful not to catch the set on fire. This isa real place that happened to be completley fire-proof, easily tricked out to look like one of Hell's caverns of torture.

We meet a young demoness (Angela Featherstone) who has an heretical curiosity about why souls are only tortured after they are dead. If they were punished in life they might repent & not have to go to hell. Her father warns her that her ways & behavior could be punishable by death, & her mother knows her daughter's very life is could well be forfeit if she continues to question the institutions of Hell.

Dark AngelVeronica's unfashionable curiosity leads her to caverns that lead upward to the earth. The moment she arises from the sewers, a change comes over her, she loses her leathery wings & little horns & hell-garments; she looks for all the world like an ordinary naked young woman, except for the enormous size of her feet which becomes a small running joke thereafter.

To her joy the world is greatly populated with sinners who she eagerly punishes in accordance with her interpretation of God's will. Hers is a moral cause; she is not a psycho killer but God's judgement. To the police, however, the trail of grotesquely slaughtered bad guys looks like one world-class psycho is on the loose.

There are many wonderful sequences like when Veronica stops a rape in progress by ripping out the full length of the rapist's spine, then is a little startled that the rape victim doesn't want the spine as a trophy of revenge. In another great sequence, Veronica is confronted by a police officer who promises to find out exactly who she is & prove what she is doing. She lets him see into her eyes exactly who she is, & after his vision of Hell, he becomes jittery & loses all desire to pursue this particular killer.

Vernonica falls in love while in the world, & to people who are not vile sinners, she is completley non-threatening. But demons are not supposed to walk the earth, & for things to work out well for Veronica's personal life, there will have to be a heavenly intervention.

This remains one of my favorite films of the last few years, & it is at the top of my list of horror films for girls who think horror films are never for girls (together with films like Ginger Snaps & May). It seems to me this deserves to be a well known movie, yet few people seem to have seen it untill I tell them to rent it, then they usually end up agreeing with me that it's an overlooked gem.

Because it was not much seen, Dark Angel was not much reviewed. One fan-critic did compare Hassani's film to Paul Schraeder who scripted Taxi Driver & often has a moral grotesquery at the heart of his screenplays &amap films, & I really thought the comparison was dead on.

A sequel was obviously intended but the first film was not successful enough in the marketplace to sustain the usual "franchize" mentality of Full Moon. This film is so far above the usual Full Moon product in quality, one does wonder if they didn't continue the series because they realized they'd been duped & the film wasn't stupid enough for Full Moon. Never realizing the quality film they had in their hands, they eventually hacked it down to one-third its length & recycled it as part of the anthology film Tomb of Terror (2004). All three films are ruined beyond belief, but the crime against such a fine film as Dark Angel is greatest.

I cannot help but speculate where next the story could've gone if it hadn't been an aborted series. The theology of the film was dead-serious & based on actual mystical Catholic & Eastern Orthodox ideas. Dark Angel: The Ascent ended with Heaven's blessing on Veronica's philosophy of repentence through punishment. I suspect the original plan was to have Veronica become Hell's messiah, leading punished souls, & fallen angels, to Salvation. I regret that we will never get to see her lead that rebellion out of Hell.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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