Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)

Rating:

USA. 1994.

Crew

Director – L. Hassani, Screenplay – Matthew Bright, Producers – Oana Panescu & Vlad Paunescu, Photography – Vivi Dragan Vasile, Music – Fuzzbee Morse, Visual Effects Supervisor – Paul Gentry, Animation Effects Supervisor – Al Magliochetti, Makeup Effects – AlchemyFX (Supervisor – Michael S. Deak), Production Design – Ioana Corciova. Production Company – Full Moon Entertainment

Cast

Angela Featherstone (Veronica Iscariot), Daniel Markel (Dr Max Barris), Michael Genovese (Detective Harper), Michael C. Mahon (Detective Greenberg), Nicholas Worth (Helliken Iscariot), Charlotte Stewart (Theresa Iscariot), Mihai Dinvale (Police Chief), Milton James (Mayor Wharton), Victoria Cocias (Lois), Cerasela Stan (Victimised Woman), Cristina Stoica (Mary)


Plot

Down in Hell, Veronica is a demon who has a curiosity about the world above, although is heavily censured for such heretical thoughts by her father and teachers. She learns of a secret route whereby she can leave and takes it to emerge in the present-day world, along with her hound Hellraiser. She is a complete innocent in the world she finds. After being hit by a car, she is taken to hospital and tended by Dr Max Barris. She influences his mind to make him invite her to stay at his place. The two duly become attracted, she being a complete innocent in matters of sexuality. After switching on his television, she is shocked to learn of the sin and corruption in the city. After encountering a woman being mugged in the streets, she intervenes to slaughter the muggers, and then begins to kill others who are victimising the innocent. These activities and her means of despatch soon bring the attention of the police.


Dark Angel: The Ascent was one of the low-budget genre films from Full Moon Productions during their heyday in the mid-1990s. Full Moon was a company created by Charles Band and his father Albert, who had previously run Empire Productions and subsequent companies like Pulse Pounders and Kushner-Locke. Full Moon also produced numerous low-budget series such as the Ghoulies, Trancers, Puppetmaster, Dollman and Subspecies films. Dark Angel: The Ascent gained some very favourable word of mouth – Cinefantastique called it one of Full Moon’s best in a massive 1995 special that examined every film ever made by the Bands. The great surprise is that Full Moon never managed to spin off a Dark Angel series as they did with so many other of their films – the film is sufficiently open ended that it easily could have.

While there has been a spate of demons as superhero films with the likes of Spawn (1997), Faust: Love of the Damned (2000), Hellboy (2004) and Ghost Rider (2007), Dark Angel: The Ascent takes a unique approach, making its demon character into a sympathetic heroine, less a demon than a punishing angel out to eliminate sin. The title role is cast with Angela Featherstone, an actress that has always seemed on the verge of becoming better known. With her piercingly strong blue eyes, Featherstone gives the film an eerie otherworldliness. She manages to deliver the script’s tongue-in-cheek Biblical portents in remarkable straight-face: “I am delighted to meet two police officers who are not tainted by the foul stench of corruption.” Matthew Bright’s script comes with an undeniable amusement in the writing – like the scene where Angela Featherstone asks Daniel Markel out, he gets excited about going on a date and it turns out to be to a porn theatre where she sits to study human sexuality while the two detectives following are forced to sit and watch.

The film offers up a cut-price vision of Hell that looks like a burned-out industrial site surrounded by flames with some effective shots of people walking across burning plains. The makeup effects are used sparingly but there are some cute shots of the demons in their natural form with stubby horns and of Angela Featherstone manifesting a set of angel wings while in bed with Daniel Markel. The film was shot in Full Moon’s usual hunting grounds of Romania – while we are given the impression we are in an unnamed American city, the city and police uniforms are clearly European, and the police car even has ‘policia’ written on it.

Director L(inda) Hassani had directed some tv episodes and works for the Playboy Channel but has never been heard from again. Matthew Bright first appeared with the screenplay for Richard Elfman’s bizarre culty film Forbidden Zone (1982) and wrote two other films directed by Richard Elfman for Full Moon with Shrunken Heads (1994) and Modern Vampires (1998). Bright subsequently went onto direct/write the cult deconstructed fairytale Freeway (1996), its amazing sequel Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999), the true-life serial killer film Ted Bundy (2002) and is a director we should be hearing more from.



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