Wednesday, November 13

Some quick thoughts on Fallen Angels (2006)

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IMDB synopsis since it's apparently written by the director: "When a turn of the century prison is slated for demolition, a grisly discovery is made. Hidden deep beneath the west cell block is a structure that has not been entered in 100 years. Inside are the skeletal remains of brutally slain children. As a CSI team arrives at the prison, an even more disturbing discovery is made that will unveil a legion of seven demons, each responsible for one of the seven deadly sins."

Ever since seeing Jeff Thomas's 13 Seconds (2003, review here), his unfairly maligned debut; I've wanted to review his second feature, Fallen Angels. Truth is, I bought the DVD soon after writing that old review, and literally fell asleep in the middle of watching. Nothing like endless dialogue to kill a horror all-nighter.

If only the little plot outline above were that simple. There's a big slug of exposition marbled throughout that makes the experience a real grind. That's not to say cheap horror shouldn't reach for depth, but all the boring conversation never leads anywhere as you squirm in your seat. Given the budgetary strain this production plainly exhibits, like some of the primary characters never interacting directly, frivolous details like a missing girl, a mysterious eighth demon, a string of ritualistic murders, and the lead detective's loss of faith were added just pad to ninety minutes.

Despite being a failure, it's still strangely interesting for its parade of familiar cult faces (check out the impressive cast list). Although most of those actors only pop in for a few brief moments. That is except for Michael Dorn and Bill Moseley who get a little more time to talk (and talk) as fellow detectives on the case. Dorn and his powerful voice seem to be composing a showreel for a future stint in a police procedural. Moseley instead does his best and manages to have one of the more memorable scenes that echos the "ball scene" from The Changeling (1980).

Alone in the prison, Moseley is seen leafing through some crude satanic illustrations when suddenly one depicting a demon waving flutters into his lap from above. He crumples it up and tosses it into a corner, but a few seconds later the same drawing again floats down from nothing. Looking over he sees the piece he just discarded missing and promptly gets up to leave with a perfectly said "time to go". Kevin McCarthy and David Hess also both provide well-delivered monologues on Christian theology. Which is eerie considering their deaths a few short years later. Reggie Bannister shows up with shades of the sly Reggie from the Phantasm series that lead his police officer to slaughter by a demon representing Lust.

Aside from the recognizable cast, Thomas exhibits a nice handle on staging creepy sequences but the story is sleep-inducing as told. Direction also flounders with many claustrophobic close-ups of actors talking with a slow motorized zoom. This very abused effect, that I assume was meant to impart tension, becomes extremely irritating. From these problems, the entire film feels compartmentalized, as if shot in bits at different times around actor schedules, and like 13 Seconds too much talk bogs things into boredom. Maybe the core issue is such specialized casting taking away funds from other more important aspects? It's great to see these actors get work, but was it worth the expense of the movie's basic entertainment value?

Finally, concerning Fallen Angels' preachy religious message, it's interesting Thomas's latest feature appears to be an unabashed Christian drama. So this could mark his final horror film and might be unique to the genre for having such positive outlook on faith. The first Christian gore flick (discounting Mel's Passion). A few years ago Thomas promised a new director's cut, but I can't find any mentions now. As it stands, I'd choose 13 Seconds as the recommendation, but don't blame me if you instead choose Fallen Angels and fall asleep with the TV on.

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