Thursday, March 2, 2017

#2,314. Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)

Directed By: Linda Hassani

Starring: Angela Featherstone, Nicholas Worth, Daniel Markel

Line from the film: "My name is Veronica Maria Theresa Iscariot of Hell"

Trivia: The film's trailer reuses music from Stuart Gordon's The Pit and the Pendulum

For centuries, hell has been depicted in Christian folklore as a realm of fire and brimstone, where the wicked, damned for eternity, burn for their sins. But thanks to Angela Featherstone, who plays a gorgeous demonic being named Veronica in Full Moon’s 1994 horror / romance Dark Angel: The Ascent, I see that hell can also be "hot" in ways I never imagined before!

Ignoring the wishes of her father (Nicholas Worth) and mother (Charlotte Stewart), Veronica, a demon-in-training, leaves hell behind to explore the world of the living. Once there, she meets Dr. Max Barris (Daniel Markel), a physician at St. Mary’s Hospital and one of the few people in the entire city with a heart of gold. Over time, Veronica falls in love with Dr. Barris, who, in turn, develops feelings for her. 

What the good doctor doesn’t know, however, is that while he’s working nights at the hospital, Veronica, along with her trusty dog Hellraiser, is walking the streets, exacting her own deadly brand of justice on any and all evildoers who cross her path. The police are convinced that the bodies Veronica leaves behind are the work of a psychopath, and assign detectives Harper (Mike Genovese) and Greenberg (Michael C. Mahon) to crack the case. But will the veteran cops track Veronica down before she kills again?

Dark Angel: The Ascent is one very strange motion picture, and has its share of scenes that don’t work as they should. For starters, the film’s depiction of hell (which is where we spend the beginning of the movie) is on the generic side, and not very frightening (Fire? check. Brimstone? Check. Tormented souls being whipped and beaten for their sins? Check), though I admit I was amazed to learn that the fallen angels forced to work in hell don’t do so 24/7; after a hard day of snipping off the tongues of liars, Veronica’s father heads home to enjoy a relaxing dinner with his family.

We’re also not quite sure what the rules are for Veronica or her kind. She and the others pray to God, and bow down before heavenly angels and clergy alike (on the street one evening, Veronica is approached by two nuns, causing her to immediately drop to her knees), yet they also have the ability to do some terrible things, as we see in those moments when Veronica takes the law into her own hands (in what is easily the film’s goriest scene, she yanks out a would-be rapist’s spinal column, then offers it to his potential victim as a souvenir of her terrible ordeal). 

But aside from a few lingering questions about hell and its various regulations, Dark Angel: The Ascent works as a romance (Veronica’s desire to experience love in all its forms, especially physical, makes for some interesting sequences, including one where she drags Max to an adult movie theater) as well as a tale of vigilante justice (despite her desire to live among mortals, Veronica does not shirk her duties, dispatching bad guys in as violent a manner as she possibly can. She even sets her sights on the city’s corrupt mayor, played by Milton James, in an effort to get him to change his ways).

Though definitely understated in her approach to the part, Miss Featherstone successfully conveys her character’s confusion and disgust with the human world while also convincingly portraying a young woman in love; and the story offers enough twists and turns to ensure it never gets bogged down by its own morality. This, along with one of the strangest sex scenes I’ve ever witnessed, is enough to help Dark Angel: The Ascent overcome its various flaws, making it yet another worthwhile release by Full Moon Entertainment, a studio that continues to surprise the hell out of me.

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