Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)

darkangel_6Starring Angela Featherstone, Daniel Markel, Nicholas Worth, Charlotte Stewart, Mike Genovese, Michael C. Mahon, Milton James, Constantin Draganescu, Cristina Stoica, Kehli O’Byrne

Directed by Linda Hassani

Expectations: I don’t know. Hopeful.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Dark Angel: The Ascent tells the classic tale of a sheltered adolescent yearning to break free from their parent’s grasp and explore the world at large. The big difference between this film and all the others that share this storyline is that Veronica (Angela Featherstone) is a denizen of Hell. There have been tons of movies with demons breaking loose from Hell to wreak havoc on Earth, but have any of them had to deal with overly protective parents? But despite how this all sounds, Dark Angel: The Ascent is played fairly straight, and where it really sets itself apart is how it portrays the relationship between God and the citizens of Hell.

Traditionally we understand that God is up in Heaven doing his godly thing, while Satan rules below, torturing souls to his heart’s content. But the entirely of Dark Angel: The Ascent is built upon the premise that everyone in Hell is actually doing the job assigned to them by God; instead of two extremes on opposite sides of a war for souls, they are needed parts of a cohesive whole. This creates moments that are unique and incredibly interesting, such as Veronica’s demon family praying to God as any devoutly religious family would before a meal. I expect a lot of things from Full Moon films, but smart, unique takes on Christian mythology is not one of them! Even if the rest of the movie was awful, this alone would highlight Dark Angel: The Ascent as an interesting Full Moon film.

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Eraserhead (1977)

Starring Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts, Laurel Near, V. Phipps-Wilson, Jack Fisk, Jean Lange, Thomas Coulson

Directed by David Lynch

Expectations: Low. Fuck David Lynch.

On the General scale:

If you like surrealism in film:


[Editor’s note: This review was my entry into the LAMB’s So You Think You Can Review tournament, in which I lost in the first round. Oh well!]

In one sentence: “Use a condom.”

A good 10 years have passed since I saw and hated my first David Lynch film (Blue Velvet) and now I find myself given Eraserhead as my first assignment in this tournament. Great! It’s been languishing in my queue for years, and now I’m forced to watch it. I’ve never understood the fascination with Lynch, but I went in with an open mind and a desire not to fall asleep too quickly. I guessed that the thick, WTF symbolism of his later films would be even worse here in his first feature. I was somewhat right on that front, but in spite of that Eraserhead easily ranks as one of the most engaging films of Lynch’s that I’ve seen. Perhaps that means some re-watches are in order for his other work, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that level of commitment just yet.

Eraserhead opens with a scene that recalls shades of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with our main character, Henry, superimposed over the dark of space. A crusty God-figure pulls a lever while looking out his window on the infinite and an intestine-like giant sperm flies out of Henry’s mouth. This is crosscut with establishing shots of an asteroid/planet/barren, symbolic womb. Following along so far? No? Well, good luck getting through the rest of this fucking movie then. Anyway, this soon gives way to Henry on Earth carrying his groceries home (or at least a big paper sack that presumably holds some sort of products). He walks through the back alleys of a 1984-esque, dystopian science fiction world populated by derelict factories and men with deep-lined faces. I know that’s not much of a plot description, but a full paragraph that runs down the actual plot would easily contain the entire film, and that’s not my goal. But I do wish to break down what Lynch is going for here, so if you wish to see the film untainted (and really, you should), skip ahead to the last paragraph.

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