So, my clairvoyant editor says with a smirk, “This is the long-awaited Blu-Ray release” of Dark Angel: The Ascent, available next week from Full Moon Features.
Long-awaited as in 22 years, seeing as how its theatrical release was in 1994, just a year after Clinton (that’s Bill, not Hill) assumed the presidency.
Well, patience is a virtue, but that doesn’t mean Dark Angel was worth the wait. To paraphrase the Stones, time is not on its side.
Dark Angel, you see, was an incoherent mess in 1994. And a generation later, it’s pretty much just as messy, though now campy enough to earn unintended laughs here and there.
For its time, the plot was quite novel. Our Heavenly Father not only looks after the saintly way up high, he rules over the fires of hell and those unfortunate souls sent there to repent. We open in that inferno, with a quick introduction to demoness Veronica (Angela Featherstone) and her demon father (late, great character actor Nicholas Worth), who’s busy snipping off the tongues of hell’s newbies.
The demons in this hell are true believers. They pray to God and do his bidding. They’re simply servants with a job to do.
None of which is particularly satisfying to Veronica. She has an unbridled curiosity about the world between heaven and hell and wonders why evildoers must await their descent before being punished. So, accompanied by her faithful dog Hellraiser, she plots an ascent, shedding her horns, wings and claws (not to mention clothes) upon her earthly arrival. Shortly thereafter, she’s injured and winds up in a hospital under the care of a heartthrob doctor Max Barris (woodenly played by Daniel Markel).
As fate (read: cheesy script) would have it, Veronica ends up moving in with Max. Sparks fly. In one of the funnier scenes, Max takes her to see the movie she requested, which turns out to be a porn flick.
Meanwhile, as Max attends to his job, Veronica attends to hers — meaning she seeks out those aforementioned evildoers and runs up the gore score. A couple of muggers are the first to be dispatched, one of whom has his spine extracted. A little later, and in a scene all too prescient given recent headlines, she takes out a couple of cops who were beating up an innocent black man.
Now evil people or not, what Veronica’s doing is something we humans call murder.
Enter the two best actors in this production, Mike Genovese (as Det. Harper) and Michael C. Mahon (as his partner, Det. Greenberg). They have the chops and dialogue to steal this picture. Dark Angel is at its best — marginally speaking, of course — when these two are in the spotlight.
But this is Veronica’s story, so we get what director Linda Hassani intended — a horror story. Or a story of romance? Or maybe a comedy? A morality play?
That’s the problem. Dark Angel tries to be so many things it succeeds simply at muddying the waters. Sure, it’s a low-budget “B” flick and high expectations aren’t fair. But is it really too much to expect coherency? For example, the big-footed Veronica (don’t ask) inexplicably morphs from blues eyes to brown (red?). If there’s a plot point there, someone forgot to mention it.
Featherstone has a decent acting resume, though she’s robotic in this. As for production values, well, let’s just say the special effects are low-grade even by 1994 standards. The music is so-so, and I’ve seen better cinematography on iPhones.
When it comes right down to it, this is a novel storyline sabotaged by poor execution all around. Dark Angel not only doesn’t earn its wings, it doesn’t earn a chance in hell of critical acclaim. Not from this critic, anyway.