New VOD Releases: Angels Fallen (2020) - Reviewed

Low budget horror lives and dies on its entertainment value and how inventive it is with its budget. Horror seems to be the one genre most people cut some slack because if you're scary, fun or both, you've mostly done your job. Unfortunately, Angels Fallen, from Uncork'd Entertainment, is none of those things.

Angels Fallen (Not to be confused with Gerard Butler actioner Angel Has Fallen) follows Gabriel (played by Nathan Fillion-lite, Houston Rhines), a former demon hunter gone into retirement after the death of his wife. Before dying, his wife gave a prophecy that Four Angels would fall one day and destroy the world. 

Perpetually bereft, he spends his time in bars, getting into drunken fights and running into Eric Roberts who, if a glance at his filmography is any indiction, seems to find himself in these things at an alarming rate. After getting into a brawl with some demons, he's greeted by his former partner Michael (Michael Teh). Michael informs Gabriel that his dead wife's prophecy has come to pass. The Four Angels have landed and it's time to come out of retirement. 

There's a lot to not like about this film. The performances are ridiculous and while that's standard in something like this, it's borderline unwatchable here. There's no easy way to say this but our lead, Houston Rhines, has one facial expression: constipation. Anger, sadness, confusion, doesn't matter. He's so over the top and when juxtaposed with Michael Teh's calmer, smoother Michael, it's a little alarming. Michael Madsen, clearly struggling to remember his lines, shows up as the angel Balthazar to offer guidance to Gabriel. As the film's de facto Ben Kenobi, Balthazar ghosts in and out of the film, seemingly two Ambiens in with no signs of stopping. It's very sad.

However, there's no reason to rip something like this to shreds. You know what it is going in and if you're generally down for low budget schlock, the quality of acting and special effects probably don't matter much. The problem here is that the film doesn't know what it needs to be. At 86 minutes, it should be a breeze. We meet our jaded hero, pulled into one last job, he fights his way through demons, we have a big blow out and everyone goes home happy. Somehow though, this thing just drags. It attempts a subplot between Michael and the team's resident alchemist and medium, Hanna (Nicola Posener) that has no business being in this movie. The relationship that matters is Michael and Gabriel. They have a past history that's barely explored and the film would do well to flesh that out. It also takes way too long to get to the titular angels. And when it does, it's so unclear as to who does what. This formula should be so easy to pull off but at every turn, Angels Fallen, makes baffling choice after baffling choice. We spend so long in some scenes, to the point that the shot will linger on awkward silences before cutting, that when we get to the action, it's almost nonexistent. 

The film does approach something quite interesting though, demon hunting in the 21st Century. Instead of boilerplate sorcery and wooden stakes, we have lasers and tracking apps. The team operates out of a command center with computer screens and gadgets everywhere. It's a fun concept that has almost no bearing on the events of the film but lends the world a more lived in and unique flavor that isn't usually present in something like this. Of course, even this is ruined by Nick Turturro who plays the team's gadget guy. In schlocky horror, you have to expect cameos from people who are just famous enough to make someone say "where have I seen that guy before?" Turturro has that kind of face and energy but that's not what takes you out of the film. The man is just riffing in every scene he's in, sometimes responding to people as if he's reading from a completely different script. He's not in the movie much but his performance is enough to take what little interest one might have had out completely.

Angels Fallen is a frustratingly empty delivery on a pretty fun concept. There's a lot to mine out of high tech demon hunting but the film never digs into any of it and just moves at a snail's pace. There's plenty of fun, high concept horror to be found hiding on VOD or DVD but Angels Fallen is one that should remain hidden.

-Brandon Streussnig