J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

ADIFF ’10: Evil Angel

She was Adam’s ex, not Frasier Crane’s. Lilith was the first wife #1 to get dumped for a younger model. Still a bit out of sorts over it, she has been venting her fury on Adam and Eve’s descendants ever since. She will be creating quite a bit trouble for one paramedic, both professionally and personally, in Richard Dutcher’s indie horror movie Evil Angel (nsfw-ish trailer here), which has its New York premiere during this year’s African Diaspora International Film Festival.

Marcus Galan is going through what could be called a rough patch. He is under investigation for the death of a diabetic prostitute not wearing her medical alert bracelet, while his compulsively unfaithful and suicidal wife makes his home life miserable. Yet, he is most tormented by another patient he was unable to save, the saintly Emma Carrillo, who lived a cloistered life in service to the poor.

Private investigator John Carruthers is supposed to be examining Galan’s case, but he has been sidetracked by a number of bodies that have cropped up, especially that of his son and partner, Vic. They all seem to trace back to that prostitute Galan inadvertently misdiagnosed, who like several other characters, underwent a radical change of personality after a near death experience. See a pattern emerging?

Angel has two things really going for it. Ving Rhames costars as Carruthers. He would be cool simply reading the newspaper, but Rhames investigating an ancient demon is some serious badness. There is also a fair amount of naughtiness in Angel, which at least makes it watchable.

In truth, Angel executes its supernatural premise relatively well, but it shares the same hereditary flaws present in nearly every horror film of the last thirty years. People definitely do stupid things here (like carelessly telling the ancient evil in human guise everything they know about her), but to an extent that would be forgivable. Like most other horror filmmaker, Dutcher also seems to have something against closure, giving viewers a predictably clichéd open-ended coda. However, he takes a surprisingly effective supporting turn as Martineau, Galan’s eccentric former colleague who seems to have listened to far too much Art Bell during those graveyard shifts (or could he be onto something after all?).

Angel looks considerably more polished than most indie genre pictures and Rhames is always an engaging screen presence. Still, the film would have benefited had Dutcher adhered less to the standard horror movie template. Essentially following in the tradition of workaday horror programmers, Angel screens this Thursday (12/2) and Saturday (11/4) at the Anthology Film Archives as part of the 2010 ADIFF.

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