HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twelve – 10/12/18

10/12 – 1998: FALLEN

When you look at the filmography of an actor like DENZEL WASHINGTON, you don’t see a lot of missteps.  Lots of different, fascinating, captivating performances in a wide range of projects, in various genres. You know what else you don’t see? A lot of horror/sci-fi/fantasy films.  That can’t be coincidental. Denzel doesn’t seem to be the kind of actor that gravitates towards monster and slasher films by choice.  In most cases, one could hardly blame him.  We know there’s a lot of trash out there…because we have to watch it.  So it has to be one special script that can attract the attention of a Denzel Washington (or someone of his type). Something so amazingly different, that once he read it, he was immediately on board with doing it.  FALLEN just so happened to be that story.

Written by NICHOLAS KAZAN (FRANCES, AT CLOSE RANGE, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE) and directed by GREGORY HOBLIT, (a TV director known mostly for HILL STREET BLUES, L.A. LAW and N.Y.P.D. BLUE, until he directed 1996’s PRIMAL FEAR, which introduced movie audiences to EDWARD NORTON), FALLEN isn’t your average script by any definition of the word. Skipping much of the blood and gore that a film like this would usually rely on and goes for the psychological chills instead.  Not to mention – it takes a ROLLING STONES tune not known for being inherently creepy, and changes all that in the blink of an   eye.

FALLEN casts Denzel as Detective John Hobbes. Every good detective has his nemesis, and John’s was the notorious serial killer Edgar Reese (a fantastic turn by THE PROPHECY’S ELIAS KOTEAS). It’s been Hobbes’ determined efforts that finally landed Reese into the gas chamber seat he so richly deserves.

But on the day of Reese’s execution, as Hobbes sits with the other witnesses, Reese does something unexpected…and chilling. As they’re strapping him in, he sings directly to the cop – The Stones classic “Time Is On My Side”.  An attempt by a deranged psychopath, to make one last show of braggadocio? You would think so.  Not so fast, though. When dead bodies start turning up, killed in the same manner that was Reese’s M.O., and John starts getting hang-up calls in the middle of the night – something that Reese loved to do to taunt him – John starts to get the feeling that even though he saw Reese die, none of this is really over.

Then, suddenly, random strangers begin singing “Time Is On My Side”…to HIM. And that’s where shit really starts to get real.

Reese was ‘nice’ enough to leave him several clues, which lead John to articles about a celebrated cop named Robert Milano, who was not only eventually disgraced, but ended up committing suicide. His boss, Lt. Stanton (DONALD SUTHERLAND) balks when he hears Milano’s name and warns John to drop it, but hey, would any cop that Denzel plays drop anything?

His sleuthing eventually leads him to Milano’s daughter, Gretta (EMBETH DAVITZ), a student of theology who has even more dire warnings about this case than Stanton did. Still refusing to turn it loose, John hikes up to the old Milano family vacation cabin, out in the middle of nowhere, where Robert decided to air out his head with a bullet.

Kind of ironic that Koteas, who played a good guy in THE PROPHECY, plays the baddie in FALLEN, which is headed in almost the same direction as the previous film.  Do I mean…ANGELS again? Why, yes, I do, and not the good ones.

Meet AZAZEL.  

If Pazuzu from THE EXORCIST had an evil older brother, Azazel would be it. Possessing people by the power of touch, he’s one of the FALLEN (get it?) who has a bone to pick with both mankind and The Deity Who Made Them, and for him…payback’s a bitch. He doesn’t exactly care about John Hobbes, but since the cop came after him while he was hiding out in Edgar Reese’s body, why not have a little “fun” destroying his life, the same way he did Milano’s?

And so the battle of wills begins between a man and the demonic angel who has it in for him.  Will it be a win, a loss, or a ‘draw’? Check out FALLEN and see!

Besides Sutherland and Davitz, the cast also boasts ROBERT JOYJAMES GANDOLFINI and AIDA TURTURRO (in a small cameo), both pre-SOPRANOS; GABRIEL CASSEUS as John’s sweet, mentally-challenged brother, Art, and giving one of his best and most frightening performances – JOHN GOODMAN as Jonesy, John’s partner of over a decade. Goodman wasn’t known for playing baddies yet, though the Coen Brothers gave him wackadoos to play that were pretty close, (especially in BARTON FINK). The real douchebags he would eventually play in films like DEATH SENTENCE were far off yet, but you can see hints of that in his performance here.

DP NEWTON THOMAS SIGEL seems to have a gift for making Philadelphia look creepy, and he uses that talent to full advantage here. And TAN DUN’S dark, ambient score is never intrusive, which is a good thing for a movie that’s heavier on creeping dread and unease, than buckets of brains dashed across the screen.

All-in-all, FALLEN is one more excellent recommendation one can make to that person that hates horror films, but loves Denzel Washington movies.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 1998 was also a year that included BLADE, RINGU, THE X-FILES, THE FACULTY, APT PUPIL, and JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRE$.


Posted by Samuel Glass

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