Always nice to get to curl up and revisit some movies that you last saw in 10th grade at a sleepover. This week, I’m reviewing a movie that is perfect for introducing a teenage girl to the horrifying world of adulthood. Which, conveniently, is kind of what DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT (1994), directed by LINDA HASSANI, is all about.
The film opens with colorful depictions of Hell that are reminiscent of events that actually take place at Burning Man. Everyone is half-naked, especially people that shouldn’t be, and everyone is screaming. We’re introduced to our little rebel demon, Veronica (ANGELA FEATHERSTONE), as she’s discussing her visions of a “golden orb” in the world above. However, Veronica is scorned for her childish wants because demons are sworn to remain in Hell, which appears to be literally underground. Sick of being cooped up and dealing with piss-poor treatment from her father, she decides to head up to our world through the sewers with her fur baby, Hellraiser.
Veronica takes on a human form to blend in with the rest of the mouth-breathing idiots on the surface and almost immediately gets hit by a car. She wakes up in the hospital and hypnotizes Max Barris (DANIEL MARKEL), the dreamy blue-eyed doctor with a unibrow, and convinces him to take her home. If you were wondering what country she happened to crawl up to, here’s a hint: The hospital gives her clothes to wear home and a brand new pair of Doc Marten’s without charging her $265,009.87 for the clothes OR the stay. So yeah, NOT the United States.**
Her introduction to the human world hasn’t been so great, but then the poor dear decides she’s going to watch TV and pretty much learns everything she needs to know about what a shithole Earth is. What particularly strikes her is the cruelty and selfishness of the Mayor, leading her to believe he is evil incarnate. Emotionally distraught, Veronica discovers that there is true evil, and lots of it, parading out in the open. Interestingly, throughout the movie, Veronica doesn’t seek out evil, she just happens to stumble upon it and punish the crimes as in she would in Hell. After a bloody brush with two rapists and a couple cops, Veronica’s got the entire city terrified and detectives on her trail.
Back in Hell, Veronica’s mother is visited by a woman from a daytime soap opera in a floating bubble. Floating-Bubble-Woman keeps Veronica’s parents updated on her status in the world above and assures them she’s doing God’s work. Then, we’re taken on a tour of the city as Max and Veronica go to a porn film screening and a sleazy club where she runs into a sweating pig in black sparkles, gets stabbed by a coked up man in a bathroom stall, and shares visions of Hell with one of the detectives.
DARK ANGEL moves quickly through it’s story and crams a lot of information and events into a short period of time. This isn’t a complaint on my behalf, as I enjoyed the fast pacing and campy quality. There could have been some more depth to the characters, Veronica was cute and clueless about human life, but what about her experiences growing up in Hell? Now THAT would’ve been interesting to hear about. A normal dinner for her is stew made of human flesh, so you can be sure there’s some other wonky stuff going on in her personal life. I wonder what kind of toilet paper they have in Hell… I’m sure I’ll find out one day.
DARK ANGEL unexpectedly ended up being a coming of age story for a young demon girl. Who would’ve thought that Full Moon could find a way to combine Hellraiser and The Little Mermaid while making political statements? Interestingly enough, nothing has changed politically 20 years later. We’re still dealing with lunatic politicians and asshole cops beating up innocent men. What stuck out as most strange, though, was the heavy Christian undertone. The demons in Hell still saw themselves as servants to God rather than Satan. In fact, there was no mention of Satan, only that sin needed to be punished according to God’s will. In one scene, Veronica is burned by a cross, yet we later see that her parents pray to a giant crucifix in their home. I appreciate the interesting take on demons ultimately being “good” and working in harmony with the angels, but a bit more information on the relationship between Heaven and Hell would be nice. Then again, this is Full Moon, these guys made GINGERDEAD MAN so maybe I’m expecting a little too much.
Shockingly, I could probably write several more pages analyzing DARK ANGEL, but I’ll spare you and let you watch it for yourself. This review is rambling enough for most people, so I’ll save my creepy confessions of love for Charles Band for another day. I did come away with one, happy message which is that this is “the end of days,” and we’re awaiting judgement of sorts. Excellent! So… it’s been 22 years now… of the end of days. Could someone please speed this process up a bit?
**Supposedly, this story DOES take place in the U.S., but the license plates on the cars and architecture would say otherwise.