Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)

Let’s get back into the depths of Full Moon Features!

In the 90s, Full Moon was killing it.  They were pumping out movie after movie after movie thanks to the boom of video stores and cable television.  You could make a handful of movies very inexpensively and, instead of the promotional costs to get the word out about a featured film in theaters, processing prints, making the deals with theaters to show the movie, etc., all you had to do is mass produce VHS tapes.  It would also be easy to sell your movie to HBO and Showtime as well.  The profit margin was much higher and you could turn that money right around into more movies for video stores and cable TV.

And, hey, and if you add a little sexy shenanigans with a pretty lead actress – even better!  That’s certainly what we have for you this week.  Another direct-to-video Full Moon selection with a little bit of sexy and a little bit of demon.  It’s 1994’s Dark Angel: The Ascent!

Angela Featherstone is our lead star in this.  Featherstone has a pretty extensive list of acting credits.  Dark Angel would be her first lead role.  Mostly, though, our leading lady is known for multiple guest parts on some of the more popular shows of the 90s like Friends, Seinfeld, before rolling that over into several recurring roles in the 2000s.

In this movie, she plays Veronica.  She’s a young demoness.  You see, she has dreams of going to the surface world and experiencing Earth for herself.  She finds a way to ascend onto Earth where she disguises herself as a human.  She meets a guy, begins falling in lover with him.  I feel like this is kind of like Full Moon Features Presents Charles Band’s The Little Mermaid.  It would most definitely be rated R.

But it isn’t just The Little Mermaid.

You see, she decides the purpose of her existence is to punish evildoers.  So she begins hunting them down, killing them, and feeding them to her dog.  So, it’s not just Full Moon Features Presents Charles Band’s The Little Mermaid.  No, it’s also Charles Band Presents a Full Moon Features Presentation of Faust: Love of the Damned.

When I was reading the synopsis on the back of the DVD box for the movie, I immediately thought, “Oh okay, so this is a sexy Little Mermaid with demon shit.  Gotcha.”  But then I read the second paragraph about feeding bad guys to her dog and bloody vengeance and punishing evil, and then it all clicked.

This is mid-90s Full Moon through and through.  However, the question remains…  Will this find itself on Puppet Master and Subspecies level or not?  Well, we get the answer almost right away as the movie starts by doing a cartoon like thing where it looks like the camera is panning down from the sky, down to the ground, then through the ground and into Hell.  Alright, guys.  I’m already loving this.  God bless you, Full Moon.

We get to see a pretty decent portrayal of what Hell looks like and what life is like there.  Lots of screaming, anguish, and fire.  These guys walk around with cages on their heads and others look like they are into some pretty kinky leather shit.  Guys are getting beaten and whipped.  There’s this set of half dozen faceless guys whose heads just shake out of control.  This is a fun little opening scene.

We also see some of how the employment system works here.  A couple demonesses are getting trained by the human resources dude in Hell.  He tells them how people are processed.  He shows them how they get something stamped on their head.  He then tells them about how they are going to be set upon them to feast.  Veronica (Featherstone, our leading lady hero chick) seems… uncertain about her career choice.  All that time in Hell U. and student loan payments (which I suspect aren’t terribly difficult to fit into your budget, but last like 18,000 years to pay off) are really forcing her into this entry level position of being released upon these poor saps to feast on their sorrow, pain, and eternal souls.

Beginning to wish she had voted for either Hell Bernie or Hell Warren so she didn’t have to pay back those damn Hell loans.

Veronica tells her HR rep that she had that dream again about going to Earth, but he slaps her around.  I would say that would not be what the HR rep should be doing or he himself would be reported to SUPER HR, but this is Hell.  I suspect these demonesses are constantly getting harassed and, yeah, I guess this is a pretty hostile work environment.

Anyway, her work buddy shows her a gap in Hell where she can escape up to the surface.  Later, she goes to see her Hell father.  He said her Hell orientation person had just seen him and she sucks for trying to get to Earth.  So, he punches her too.  I mean…  It is Hell, right?  Later that day/night/perpetual darkness(?), Veronica talks to her Hell mother and she says she needs to give up these Hell dreams of Earth.  When she refuses to apologize to Hell daddy, he tries to kill her.  She runs away and goes to the place where she can slip out and go up to Earth.  I’m going to call this little crack/gap/hole place Satan’s Asshole.

She and her loyal Hell dog go to Satan’s Asshole, and like a turd moments after a Taco Bell dinner, she squeezes her way out whether it wants her to or not.  There’s a problem, though.  She has little horns, wings, and a tail.  She’s going to stand out now that she’s come up through the sewer where Devil’s Asshole, appropriately, lets out at.  So the movie does us a solid by giving me a solid and she transforms into a human – a naked human.

At a hospital, we meet Dr. Max Barris.  He is in the emergency room when a man with a gunshot wound comes in.  He tried robbing a store, and the little old lady there shot him before he fatally shot her in return.  As he unwinds, he goes out into the balcony of this obviously NOT Eastern European hospital (because all hospitals in the US have balconies and US cities have cobblestone streets).  He sees Veronica and they seem to fall in love with one another at first sight.

She’s then struck by a car because she’s an idiot and doesn’t know what streets and cars are.  Max brings her in and helps her.  Apparently, they can’t raise her body temperature and are running space heaters to their demises.  But that’s not the weird thing according to the nurse.  She reveals giant manly feet to the doc.  She also is able to sleep deeply as soon as she closes her eyes.

She also snores.

The next morning, the doctor and patient get to know each other a little better.  She knows his name without him telling her.  She says his heart is pure and that a “slave” told her she is going to be released that day.  She asks him to accept her into his dwelling.  He asks her where she comes from and where her family is.  So she just Jedi mind tricks him into taking her home.  When they get there, they hear his neighbors fighting.  She already knows the man is an adulterer.

Now, she has this dog named Hellraiser that was taken to the pound while Veronica is in the hospital.  He escapes.  He waits for her on the street outside her window.  He even knows which apartment Max lives in.  She talk with stilted language.  She let a car hit her because she stood in the middle the street.  She called a nurse a slave.  That’s okay.  No need to ask any questions about anything going on here.

While Max gets some rest, Veronica watches the news and daytime talk shows.  The news and Sally Jessie Raphael would be the WORST thing to watch if you want to know what humanity is like.  She sees something about the mayor enacting some kind of legislation that will ultimately put people on the street to starve and die.  While Max works his shift, she goes to read more about this mayor.  She is approached by a pair of nuns who she bows to, but they say it is not necessary for her to do.  They invite her to church for food and shelter, but Veronica responds, as I would, “But surely I would combust!”  They put a cross in her hand it lights on fire and burns her hand.

A little ways up the road, a couple obviously not Eastern European dudes are raping a girl and robbing her.  Veronica grows her nails, and throws a pole through one guy and tears the spine out of the other.  Now…  Say what you will during this point in the movie.  Sure, it feels like a bunch of disconnected scenes about nuns, the mayor, rapists, Veronica doing something about it, and what have you.  But ripping the fucking spine out of a rapist?  That is bad ass.  She tells the victim to take that spine home with her so she can remember this incident.  She then hangs the dudes’ headless fucking torsos from a tree for the cops to find.

I’m in love.

The victim comes into the hospital ranting about repenting and the last days and demons are coming.  Max has had about enough of these weirdo bitches coming into his hospital.  The cops want to question the woman as soon as she is coherent again.  Later, Max comes home and has prepared a meal for Max.  Look, she tears spines out of people and she cooks.  Shit, she even has it ready the exact moment you come home from work.

Okay, maybe she eats like Henry VIII on a bender.  Maybe what she’s cooked for you is a rack of some dead rapist.  She talks like a fucking viking.  But, I mean look at her.  She seems really cute… in her… spine-ripping ways…?  No, yeah…  She’s really cute.  A definite keeper!

They have a deep, philosophical debate over the righteousness of killing evildoers.  He’s a doctor, and believes that all human life is sacred.  She agrees on that point, but she says that life is a gift from God and that if someone takes that gift from someone, they must burn in the deepest pit of hell for it.  Max is like, “Fuck…  I’m dating another Jesus freak.”

Later, Veronica gets out into the streets again and sees two cops dressed exactly like European policemen with a car that says “Police” in a foreign language.  They are hasslin’ a black dude just walking down the street and going about his business.  She fucks ’em up good, rips the heart out of one of them, and leaves a note for the mayor.

Meanwhile, in Hell, Veronica’s Hell mom is contacted by an angel in a bubble.  Sigh…  People, these are sentences I type for this blog.  Anyway, the bubble angel says that Veronica has been called to a higher purpose.  She will “cleanse” man and that Hell mom and Hell dad is just gonna have to suck it because she’s going to do that thing whether they like it or not.

It’s at this point that I realize there is something exceptionally fascinating about Dark Angel: The Ascent.  The ideology, politics, and social structure of this movie is mind-boggling.  But not in a bad way.  Actually quite the opposite.  This is something that feels like would be part of a long, 20-year series of books that details all of this in excruciating detail.  Like, Matthew Bright, the writer of this movie, this guy had a fucking vision and it is goddamned realized here.

Bright probably did some really good acid one night and all this played out for him.  God and Heaven reigns over everything.  Hell is basically a place where hard people force bad souls to pay their penance for doing evil on Earth.  However, scales are tipped right now and the people in power or the people with strength have fallen from the righteousness expected of humans based on God’s will and law.  While crosses burn Veronica and any denizen of Hell, people of Hell still obey and worship God in Heaven.  Those in Heaven, like the bubble angel, do not treat the people in Hell poorly.  I mean they might think of them as lesser creatures or things fulfilling a specific purpose or what have you.  That said, she is happy Veronica is around killing evildoers to “cleanse” humanity.

So…  Legit killing people is fine by the big G Man himself?  Those in Hell, the demons and what have you, they aren’t evil?  They are just part of a giant system that deals with souls in the afterlife?  Okay.  I can dig that.  But wait…  Possessions still happen, right?  Veronica’s demoness friend said so much earlier in the movie.  I mean I guess you can chalk that up to bad demons.  There are bad people.  I assume there are bad angels and demons too.

Ripping spines out of people’s fucking bodies, though?  God is just about a big a fan of that as I am.

The note left in the mouth of one of those cops hasslin’ that poor black dude says that if the mayor doesn’t get out of politics, the killer will come for him.  The cops say that the mayor is going to get an extra detail around him because the murderer is not just a nut – he’s a super nut.  They then go to Max’s apartment and find Veronica.  She doesn’t seem to have any sympathy for those killed.  She then asks them if they serve the mayor and to be careful not to lie because she knows it.  They found a jacket at the first murder that has Max’s hospital stitched on it.  They ask her about it.  In the note they have, the lowercase G is offset.  They see that in something that was typed.  They plan on putting a tail on her to investigate further.

But fuck all that, Veronica has made herself some sexy leather clothing.  Max comes home to her showing off her new duds, and he decides to get dressed like one of the guys from Night at the Roxbury so they can go out on a date.  He finds her on her knees while her dog eats a human heart.

It’s at this point that I realized all I ever wanted in life was a sexy redhead, with a penchant for leather dresses and a dog that ate human hearts.

They go to a movie.  At a porno theater.  With the cops tailing them.  They then go to a nightclub.  There, she explains she’s never seen a porno, let alone any movie before.  A woman who almost looks like Mary Woronov comes up and says she used to go to school with Max.  Veronica calls her a pig and then follows her to the bathroom and threatens her for coveting Max.  When a guy who was in one of the stalls doing coke stabs Veronica, she realizes that maybe she’s gone too far this time.

One of the detectives that has been following her comes into the bathroom after that old flame of Max’s runs out.  She tells the cop to leave her and Max alone and gives him a mental image of what she is which maybe makes him crazy.  You know…  I’m not too sure Veronica is all that much of a hero.

When Max and Veronica get home, he sees her knife wound and she says she can’t go to the hospital.  Why she can’t, I’m not sure because she was at one earlier.  While he preps to stitch her wound, she asks him if he thinks she is attractive.  He says yes, so she says she wants to have sexual intercourse with him.  She then reveals that she is not human.  Smash cut to Max stitching her wound while she tells him she wants him inside her.

Now, question…  Are the bubble angels okay with all this too or is this like a James Bond scenario where she needs everything at her disposal to make sure she completes her mission?

They fuck in his bedroom that is suddenly full of lit candles everywhere.  They fuck for, like, hours.  She causes the glass on his alarm clock to shatter.  She grows her claws.  She reverts back to her demonic form, and then he realizes that…  Oh, shit…  Maybe she is a hell beast.

In other words… a woman.

Every time Max gets laid, a Hellspawn gets her wings.

While Veronica tells Max who she really is, our now-insane detective man says, much like the rape victim earlier, that the last days are here.  So…  Is Veronica an agent of the end times?  Is that why the bubble angel was like, “No, Hell mom, don’t try to stop Veronica.  We need her to do this thing for us.”  This feels… villainous?

Speaking of villains, Veronica goes to Mayer Totally Not an European with the plan, I suppose, to assassinate him.  Look, the dude is corrupt as all get the fuck out, but wow.  You’re really telling me that this entire movie is about her finding and killing the mayor of this Europ… er American town?  While you’re at it, you just tell the police to fuck off and you’re going to do whatever you want because you answer to some higher power?  I mean…  I can’t think of any mass murderer that has ever said that…

Oh wait.  THEY ALL SAY THAT.

So Veronica gets there, plays some mind games with the mayor by making it seem like his teeth and fingernails are falling out, and then goes in for her big moment to rid the world of this asshat.  And what’s her big, heroic, one-liner?

“I have you now, you fucker.”

Pure. Cinematic. Genius.

Much like with the detective in the toilet earlier, she doesn’t kill him, she just does the penance stare like Ghost Rider and shows him hell and what’s going on and what awaits for him in the afterlife.  As she leaves, she is shot in the back by a cop.  In Hell, the bubble angel comes back to speak to Veronica’s Hell mom and Hell dad.  Bubble angel says that she needs their permission to bring Veronica home to immerse her in the healing waters of the River Styx.

She takes Veronica, leaving Hellraiser with Max.  After she is gone, the mayor makes a speech on TV saying he is going to retire and spend his retirement at a monastery.  That night, Max’s mirror erupts in an explosive fire, and Veronica comes through wearing a black wedding dress to reunite with him.  Roll credits.

So…  This is an odd movie?  It’s entertaining.  It’s dripping with Full Moon charm.  Yet there’s really no plot.  The entire movie builds to a climax in which Veronica makes a corrupt mayor reveal all the shitty stuff he’s done.  I think Veronica is meant to be sort of a superhero but aside from brutally murdering four people, she kinda pulls that Superman thing at the end of Man of Steel in which she basically just tells the authorities that she is going to do what she wants.

But she doesn’t do that either.  What she does is explain all this to one cop that by driving him insane with visions of Hell.  The other cop is left with knowing something is fishy, but that all just fades away from the movie.  I think what this movie needed more than anything was scope.  Apparently, she is there to cleanse the world, but she killed a couple rapists and a couple super shitty cops, but also I feel like this is a small town.  If this was like, the President or some other high ranking official or something, and the people she was smiting were other people with more power, then I’d get an understanding of what she is accomplishing.  Without it, it’s just a movie with charm, some nice boobs, and not much else.

Next week, I’m goin’ on down south to get into the country music business!  Come back and visit a while and hear the tale of the Nashville Girl!

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