When I hit play on “Dark Angel: The Ascent” I was expecting something along the lines of Uwe Boll’s “Bloodrayne”, a campy demon-kills-douchebags affair. Yes, I could have read the press release that came with this or even googled it but I didn’t. I’ve had a VHS copy of this movie bumping around my collection for years so i was confident I knew what this was. Also it was 1 AM so cut me a bit of a break. What I was not prepared for was the the strange sort of coming of age tale that played out in front of me. This one still involved a degree of demons and spine ripping Sub-zero would be proud of though so it’s not a complete wash in those terms. In fact, there are some unexpected takeaways that this movie has in store, at least when we’re talking about these sort of films.
The gist of the story is that Veronica (Angela Featherstone), a demon from a Hell, wants to “walk under the golden orb” aka the surface of Earth, mommy and daddy demon voice their parental disapproval but – being the demonic equivalent of a teenager – she goes anyways. Cue demonic hijinks. Totally not a demon killing douchebags plot at all, right? The movie begins in Hell, which let me say is a pretty big tease because we really don’t get to see much of this set after our demoness makes her way to the surface. It’s a shame too because they managed to make this Hell scene pretty, well…hellish, especially for a Full Moon release. Low budget or not, “Dark Angel” does have more than a few choice uses of its effects budget, scattered throughout the movie. These assorted pieces – the spine ripping and digging through a dying man’s chest to rip out his heart come immediately to mind – are stranded between scenes that are far less exciting as Veronica discovers exactly how sinful the surface world of humans really is.
It appears “Dark Angel” “helleportation” (my name for their chosen method of dimension hopping) operates under the same laws as “Terminator” universe time travel, in that the traveller is required to be ass naked for it to happen. No complaints from me here, just pointing out the obvious shoe-horning in of the almost mandatory at this budget nudity. You need to keep the audience engaged one way or another right? That’s what my b-movie education has taught me anyways. Obviously the appearance of a naked woman on the street is going to cause all sorts of emotions and confusion and she is quickly apprehended and finds herself in a hospital. While being checked out, she gets checked out by a doctor by the name of Max Harris (Daniel Markel) who later offers her shelter – and a brand new pair of Doc Martins he just HAPPENS to have laying around. Now come on – I’ll accept demons coming up to earth to check it out and whatever, but you don’t just have a pair of new Doc’s just hanging out. Veronica isn’t on the surface long before she encounters sin – this time in the form of muggers – and deals with it the only way she knows how: death. Veronica continiues to learn firsthand just how sinful the surface world can be, realizing that the souls sent down to be punished may in fact deserve thier punishment, contrary to the thoughts she had that helped send her on her journey in the first place.
One of the more interesting things about the movie that does come up during the take them or leave them exposition scenes is the handling of Veronica’s demonhood and what exactly being a demon in the Full Moon-iverse entails. Normally, we are presented with demons are creatures under the sway of Satan or some devious Lord o’ Hell or another, intent on performing evil acts, sowing chaos and generally spreading misery and discord. In this universe, the demons appear to actually be servants of God – though they still reside below because God is a real dick like that – punishing only those who have sinned. Good news right? Not so much as it seems their views are extremely Old Testament; fire and brimstone before forgiveness. If nothing else, I guess at least “Dark Angel” has a unique religious outlook going for it. And the tease that is that Hell scene. Come for Hell, stay for the interesting demonic value system.
Now that she has seen a slice of what the surface world has to offer in terms of sin (see: loads) Veronica comes to realize that maybe her demon dad did indeed have at least a few of her interests in mind when he advised against her journeying to the surface. So this really is that coming of age story isn’t it, lesson learned and all – just wrapped up in a bit more leather and horns than usual. “Dark Angel: The Ascent” isn’t exactly the standard fare you expect when you pop in something wth the Full Moon logo on it, but it’s differences set it far enough apart that it’s worth checking out.