Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994) — Demon visits earth for R&R

“How would you like to die in a state of mortal sin?”

Justin’s rating: Hell is apparently really ignorant of earth for some reason

Justin’s review: I find that whenever one becomes bored of the same-old, same-old cinematic rehash, the most potent and instant palate cleanser is to utter the following phrase: “I guess it’s time for a Full Moon flick!”

None of the studio’s movies are good, but they’re not-good to the max, which somehow makes all the difference. For today’s mental purge, I’m plucked out 1994’s supernatural fantasy revenge fish-out-of-water superhero romance Dark Angel: The Ascent. Yes, it has about four genres too many crammed in here, but — again — it’s to the max.

We start out in subterranean hell, where people wear cages on their heads and women enjoy strangely modest robes. It’s here we meet Veronica (Angela Featherstone, who had a bit part in Army of Darkness), a young demoness who literally dreams of walking in the world above. She’s like the Little Mermaid, just with horns and wings, yearning for a better place. I guess I get it, because this version of hell is like a well-funded haunted house stocked with very grumpy actors.

Thus, Veronica takes a forbidden path up to the surface of the world, at which point she loses her wings, horns, and (this being Full Moon) clothes. Also, her hell dog turns into a German Shepherd, because every Little Mermaid needs her Sebastian. She gets hit by a car and has a bloody meet-cute with a NYC doctor named Max (Daniel Merkel) because of it, stirring up a love that dare not speak its name. We all have stories about falling for the wrong type of person, but Max is going to win that contest.

Initially, the demoness is charmed by the beauty of the world, but once she finds out that it’s also full of sinners and meany-heads, she decides that it’s up to her to bring a certain brand of hell-vengeance to the jerks of the world. Watching this made me feel very sad for the state of hell’s public education if demons had no idea that the bad people they brought in every day were actually bad in their above worlds.

Veronica’s crusade is helped by her various array of comic book powers: mind reading, oversized feet, accelerated healing, hell visions, sleepiness, telekinesis, lights flickering, retractable claws, and super strength. It’s not clear why she’s that concerned with taking people out, seeing as how she — of all beings — knows exactly where they’re headed, but I guess a girl’s gotta work. Her after-hours activities does raise the question of why she thinks she’s any better than all the nasty people she’s judging. And it’s not like we’re that disposed to like her, as the actress plays her as woodenly and detached as possible.

Stilted acting aside, there’s a great deal to like about Dark Angel. Its mythology is interesting and a shade more involved than your typical cinematic view of the afterlife (for example, the demons serve and pray to God and REALLY hate sin). And the genre mish-mash ensures that, tonal whiplash aside, there’s almost always something interesting on display here. It feels like there’s a lot of imagination working to overcome low budget acting and sets, which I can respect.

Eventually, heaven, hell, and the NYC police force converge to try to get Veronica under control as she goes after the corrupt mayor of the city. Max also has to grapple with the realization that he’s dating way out of his comfort zone and was fed human flesh at one point, which he said he liked.

You might not know — even from the credits — that Dark Angel is one of the few female-directed horror films out there, this being helmed by Linda Hassani. Perhaps this may explain why it feels a little more thoughtful and less graphic than it could’ve been otherwise.

While Dark Angel isn’t perfect, there aren’t many movies that you can say are a mash-up of Species, Little Nicky, Fifth Element, and Basic Instinct. A viewing of this, while not a must-do, will not be wasted because of its content.


  • The opening credits descending down into hell is pretty arresting, even if the music is lacking
  • The paint can-style shaking heads is freaky
  • The branding typewriter
  • The bowl of tongues
  • Speaking blasphemy in hell is… bad? Isn’t that the point of hell?
  • Demons can get married and have kids in hell. Also they pray before meals.
  • “Those are the biggest feet I’ve ever seen on a female in my life” RUDE
  • “What’s your dog’s name?” “Hellraiser.”
  • How fast she falls asleep is pretty funny
  • His stethoscope picks up the sounds of human suffering in her chest?
  • This is the most dimly lit hospital ever
  • Repeat after me: Patients aren’t puppies
  • Veronica has the powers of telepathy and telekinesis now?
  • Demons can’t stay in churches, as they would combust
  • “We got company!”
  • Predator isn’t the only one who does spine rips
  • OK, Veronica offering the spine to the guy’s would-be victim is pretty funny
  • “I guess they ain’t all saints”
  • “Ahhhh the dogs shall eat their entrails!”
  • Did she cook and feed a human to the doctor?
  • Those are the worst NYC police outfits
  • Angels visit hell in bubbles
  • The date at the porno theater with the cops spying on you is a strange pick for a romantic outing
  • She made her leather outfit out of his couch?
  • Getting stitched up is the ideal time to make your move
  • Wait, when did they have time to light 500 candles around their bed? Is this a suicide pact?
  • When your teeth start falling out, it’s not a good day

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