Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Angel Heart (1987)

Hmmm. This movie is a tough one to review. Actually, it's a really tough movie to review. It's a movie I've seen a couple of times at this point, but never quite feel the same way about it any time I watch it. I never quite like it, but I never dislike it it either. It has some great ideas, some great execution, and some great little details within it, but it has a lot of issues everywhere as well. I almost don't know where to begin. I know what to say, but I find it hard to say what I want to say. I really thought I'd like this movie. Every time I see this movie I say to myself, "Man, I really want to like this movie." I thought it would be good and I'd be happy and therefore everybody else would be happy and joyous too. I was wrong.

This movie is a very interesting movie, not at all bad quality, with decent acting and a wonderful pace, but a plot that suffers from it being a horror film. That hurts to say. I'm hurting right now saying this film is actually hurt by being a horror film, but it is. Some movies do have issues with suddenly being a horror film, with their core design better suited for other genres. I feel that Shutter Island, a movie that never should have been marketed as horror but was, and Dark City, which would have been a decent movie without the weird vampire creatures. At times it's almost baffling, with good plots ruined by horror movie premises. And while I hate saying that, I do have to say that these movies have great ideas and plots when the horror isn't involved at all. Angel Heart as a film noir is an incredibly mystifying mystery film, and works very well as that. Why add the plot points of changing faces, forgetting, and the devil into all of that? It makes no sense to me. Just go and have the lead get amnesia or something. It would make just as much sense at this point... no, probably more sense, actually.

I love horror. I love psychological horror. Honestly, it's my very favorite genre of film, even though there really are very few films I can call "good" psychological horror movies, which I hope this bog has kind of pointed out over the years. This movie, sadly, is not a good psychological horror film. It's not a bad film if you look at it as a film and nothing else. It's very well shot. Mickey Rourke is great as Harry Angel. The plot is pretty good. But as a horror film it falls short, and it will always fall short. It has no scares, no reason to be a horror movie, and mostly it works better without those horror elements.

Now, maybe this isn't supposed to be a horror film exactly. Maybe it's supposed to be a weird cult-horror film like The Nameless. Well, if it is then it falls short in that genre too. This is a very well put together film. It reminded me of Chinatown (1974), in its plot and characterizations. Also, it vaguely reminded me Oldboy (올드보이) (2003), especially one easy to figure out plot point in the movie. Without the supernatural stuff, this movie comes off ridiculously well. It makes sense and the plot and acting really are kind of convincing, so much so that without those supernatural elements I could find myself starting to like the movie. Without the supernatural stuff, there are even some unnerving elements to this film. Everything seems slightly off about things, and it works really well. But with the supernatural parts in there the film comes off as ridiculous, confusing, and a jumbled mess. The detective film that this ought to have been and the horror film this was trying to be didn't mesh well. They really did come off as almost two different films, with the horror film being nowhere near as well done. It kind of felt like the horror elements were tacked on.

Somebody told me a while ago that this film is similar to Jacob's Ladder, that it's supposed to be one of the movies most like Jacob's Ladder. It's not. I mean, seriously, it's not. It's like Jacob's Ladder in the same way Dracula is like Dark City. Yes, there are some very small elements of similarity, but they are wholly different movies with different premises, plots, and characters. As I said before, this film is much more like Chinatown and Oldboy, or maybe even an anti-The Nameless, but it is not a movie at all like Jacob's Ladder, and I'm a little offended any comparisons could be made at all from any person with a brain at all.

I didn't hate this movie. I really didn't. I liked it even somewhat. I simply don't think it should have been a supernatural-horror film. That being said, some of the movie was so well done that it needs mentioning. The recurring fan motif throughout the film was very well done, I'll give that to the filmmaker. The love scene (if you've seen the film, you'll know which one) is... um... interesting. I thought it was well done, but also VERY out of place. It was probably the creepiest moment in the film, and yet even that was... it felt like a completely different film. I don't know. It came out of nowhere and was basically the climax. It worked really well, but would have fit in another film much better than it fit in this one. The off the wall nudity, the camera work, and the characters simply felt like they were in another movie for that scene rather than this one. It's a weird thought, but one I cannot remove from my head. 

I don't think I could watch this movie again, although maybe someday I will. It's better than some movies, but it's never going to go down as one of my favorites. I thought that Jacob's LadderOldboy, and Chinatown were all much better movies than this one, and should all be watched long before this film is even thought about. (Which is what I did.)

Oh, and I do have to mention a few other things: Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) was a interesting character until we knew what he was. Not telling us would have been more effective in my mind. The stupid yellow eyes were stupid, and the baby with the yellow eyes was photoshopped terribly and made me giggle. A horror movie that is supposed to have a fairly serious and depressing ending should not have a freaking yellow-eyed badly-photoshopped baby at the climax of it. I did like the elevator ending though, although it was too little, too late for me.

1 comment:

  1. Well, do you call it analysis? You just keep saying "I dont like this movie but i don't hate either. I wont watch it again. It is a bit weird" I think you should learn how to analyse a film first, and then write about what you feel. Repeating unnecessary things without giving any reason IS NOT ANALYSIS. i wish i hadn't run into your blog and wasted my time with reading it.