Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)

It's just another day in Hell. Souls are arriving, souls are being tortured and adolescent demon Veronica (Angela Featherstone) is being trained in her future trade. Veronica, though, wants something different. She has been having dreams of a bright world with a large yellow globe hanging in the sky, and she longs to visit.

Her mother Theresa (Charlotte Stewart) tolerates her daughter's fantasies, but her father Hellikin (Nicholas Worth) is having none of it. He is fit to tied, and tempted to dismember her. Literally. Veronica has recently heard tales of a crevice that leads to the upper world so she can visit in the flesh rather than by possession and, with her dog Hellraker, heads upward to escape her father's wrath.

Trying to fit in, she abandons her horns and wings for a human form - minus clothes. Unfortunately, she soon finds some and sets out to explore the world. Unfortunately, she has no experience with automobiles, and her first winds up with a visit to the hospital, where she meets innocent doctor Max (Daniel Markel), who takes her in when she's released.

Her fascination with the upper world soon fades once she finds out how much sin there actually is. On a walk, she encounters two men robbing and preparing to rape a woman, and she quickly intervenes, punishing them in the way she has been taught. This gains the attention of the local police, and Detectives Harper (Mike Genovese) and Greenberg (Michael C. Mahon) are on the case. Things escalate as two racist cops also turn up dead, one with a note to the corrupt mayor of the city (Richard Barnes) to repent while he still can or serve the consequences. Meanwhile, romance blooms between Veronica and Max, and she begins to give into some very human jealousy.

This movie is one I fondly remember from the heyday of Full Moon Video, and not just because of Angela Featherstone's introduction to the human world. Her performance, a bit stiff at first, evolves as she interacts with Max and others in the upper world, and she is thoroughly convincing as a hellspawn out to do God's work.

The main thing that has always stuck with me is the way hell was envisioned. It is a place of torture, but the demons running the place are truly repentent beings who approach their job as being God's work. There are hints that the current occupants are not happy with their forebearers for causing the fall of one third of the host, and there's no silly Satan worship. If this movie is to be believed every single demon in Hell is a devout Catholic.

That's not the only strange element. The action is supposed to be taking place in an American city, but the movie was filmed in Bucharest, Romania. This is Bucharest a mere five years after the deposition and death of communist dictator Nicolai Ceausescu, and there is not one thing remotely American about any of the settings, from the centuries-old buildings to the police cars with the local markings still on. It is rather disconcerting.

I still love this movie after all these years despite all its unexplained strangeness and flaws, and I felt a true burst of nostalgia watching it for the first time in 17 years. It's unfortunate that this is one of the lesser-known Full Moon films, and that there were no sequels to it. It was truly one of their more original and intriguing releases.

Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)
Duration: 81 minutes
Starring: Angela Featherstone, Daniel Markel
Director: Linda Hassani

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