One thing I found disappointing in 1973's 'The Exorcist', is that
despite its tremendous entertainment value, it exploited the premise of
demonic possession without telling you much about it. It made up for
this flaw by showcasing an absolutely blistering climax as two priests
try and rid Satan from the body of a little girl. William Peter Blatty
did win an Oscar for his adapted screenplay, based on the book, so he
must have done something right.
'Fallen' has a similar problem but can't touch the classic stature of a
film like 'The Exorcist' by any stretch of the imagination. It's
premise of soul transformation is an intriguing one but it has no line
of explaining the history or theological origins traced to the heart of
Denzel Washington is always impressive (has he ever made a truly awful
movie?) All right, I'll give you 'Heart Condition' (1990) and maybe
'Ricochet' (1991) but the Oscar winning actor always finds the right
style even in films that are mediocre.
Washington stars as a California detective who pays a final visit to a
convicted felon he help capture (Elias Koteas) who is about to be
executed and deep down, Washington relishes the fact that the low life
is about to succumb to the lethal forces of the gas chamber and Koteas
tries to make final contact with Washington by attempting to shake hands
Upon execution, Koteas sings a familiar song just before which comes
back to haunt Washington later in the film along with other
characteristics of the criminal's behaviour.
Unusual occurrences begin to surface as a series of murders occur in the
city and Washington finds a familiar pattern to it all. People begin
confronting him and sing the song that Koteas sang at his execution and
this drums up suspicions that the killer's soul is being transferred
into the bodies of innocent people. It seems that the soul can change
bodies at will upon the act of a simple touch by one person to another
and the movie can't escape the fact that anything that routine is simply
not a believable premise for a movie. The movie spends virtually its
entire first hour doing this and becomes tedious after the first 45
Washington seeks advice from a theologian (Embeth Davidtz) and is
dealing with his partner (John Goodman) through all of this and the
skeptical tone of his boss (Donald Sutherland). Goodman and Sutherland
are instrumental in the film's final resolution which the audience can
see coming a mile away.
Director Gregory Hoblit ('Primal Fear') uses repetitive pseudo slow
motion shots that stretch and skew across the movie screen in a deeply
coloured and grainy manner as a way of showing the perception of evil
and I found it to be a tiresome and gruesome trick that was over used
and reminiscent of a Brian DePalma film.
Writer Nicholas Kazan ('Reversal of Fortune'), has penned a shallow and
unimaginative film of wannabe gothic proportions and instead of coming
up with a story that should have characters we care about, it fails
because it doesn't showcase an acceptable form of depth and therefore
contains a story we ultimately care nothing about.
Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith