Hardboiled noir, creepy horror and voodoo chickens add up to a sensational suprise

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Angel Heart (1987)—movie review

Angel Heart (1987)—movie review

Continuing with the (young) Mickey Rourke + ’80s movies kick I’ve been on, this week we revisit Angel Heart.

 

The 1987 movie stars a Rourke just starting to go to seed (also released that year: Barfly. After that, the highlights of the actor’s IMDB portfolio are basically Wild Orchid until Sin City in 2005), Robert DeNiro and Lisa Bonet. The movie is based on a 1978 novel, Fallen Angel, by William Hjortsberg,

The less said about the plot the better—not because it’s bad, but because the movie’s charm is in its reveals. Suffice it to say, we almost always know more than Harry Angel, Rourke’s private detective character. Angel is continually playing catch-up with the plot. DeNiro plays a not-very-mysterious-but-still-kind-of-scary character named “Louis Cypher” (think about it. But not too hard).

Also in the movie: Charlotte Rampling in a thankless role as a fortune teller. Bonet, meanwhile, attempts to escape her Cosby Show image by showing her boobs and messing around with a chicken.

 

 

In fact, there’s a good drinking game to be had during Angel Heart. Take a swig every time someone says “chicken.” You will be drunk by the end of it.

Anyway, Angel Heart holds up well. In a post-Sixth Sense sense, it’s even ahead of its time. Alan Parker (Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning among many others) directs the mix of supernatural and film noir/detective elements to the point just before the whole thing bubbles over into camp. (Although the movie comes dangerously close towards the end.)

I’m not sure that I would call Angel Heart scary. But it is effectively spooky and the unraveling of the mystery is quite expertly done. It gets under your skin, which is exactly what it wants to do.

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