Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Dark Angel' makes interesting use of religious themes

Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)
Starring: Angela Featherstone, Daniel Markel, Mike Genovese, Michael C. Mahon, Richard Barnes, Nicholas Worth and Kehli O'Byrne
Director: Linda Hassani
Producers: Charles Band, Debra Dion, Oana Paunescu and Vlad Paunescu
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A rebellious teenaged demon (Featherstone) travels from Hell to Earth to see the Sun and the sky, but once here she takes up her God-given responsibilities of punishing sinners. Along the way, she also manages to find true love in the form of a young, pure-hearted doctor (Markel).

"Dark Angel: The Ascent" is an engaging horror/fantasy film from the Golden Age of Charles Band's film career that features a stereotypical rebellious teenager ("my daddy doesn't understand me, my teachers don't appreciate me") but gives her a very unusual background and circumstance: The teenager here is a demon.

The concept is well-implimented in that it offers a fully realized version of Hell based on actual mythology, with a heavy slant to the idea that it is a place populated by fallen angels who still serve and worship God. Stylish photography, well-done make-up, and witty dialogue further augment the film.

Unfortunately, star Angela Featherstone isn't quite up to the task of playing our heroine. She delivers virtually every line in the same flat monotone, and, while she is very pretty, she also seems to just have one facial expression whether she is sad, angry or happy.

Featherstone's weak performance drags the whole movie down, particularly when it is contrasted with the more lively performances of character actors like Nicholas Worth who plays the (literal) father from Hell and Mike Genovese and Michael Mahon who play homicide detectives trying to solve the rash of brutal murders the dark angel leaves in her wake as she punishes the wicked.

Despite a flawed performance from its star, "Dark Angel: The Ascent" is worth a look for anyone who has fond memories of classic Full Moon movies, or who enjoys films that effectively utilize Christian mythology in creative ways.