Rating -

Thriller (US); 1998; Rated R; 123 Minutes

Denzel Washington: John Hobbes
John Goodman: Jonesy
Donald Sutherland: Lt. Stanton
Embeth Davidtz: Gretta Milano
Elias Koteas: Edgar Reese

Produced by Robert Cavallo, Elon Dershowitz, Patricia Graf, Nicholas Kazan, Ted Kurdyla, Charles Roven, Kelley Smith-Wait, Dawn Steel and Richard Suckle; Directed by Gregory Hoblit; Screenwritten by Nicholas Kazan

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Fallen" contains some frightening and intense elements that would normally make a great serial killer film. It is reminiscent of the third "Exorcist" movie, in which a dead killer uses living human bodies as possessions to continue the murdering, just as a cop comes into the situation and attempts to solve the mystery. The main difference is that the third "Exorcist" film worked well with the material it was given. Gregory Hoblit, the guy who directed "Fallen," leaves too many unanswered and confusing questions at the end of his picture, all leading up to the point where it falls short of being a worthy effort. I wouldn't go so far to claim the movie bad, but perhaps as far as to claim it dead.

Okay, so I was frightened and enveloped in the movie. In fact, it stirred fright in me like "The Silence Of The Lambs" did seven years ago. But "The Silence Of The Lambs" was able to make sense of the story by explaining it through character dialogue. "Fallen" does not do that in any necessary way, and by the end of the movie, it basically becomes an attempt to predict what did or did not happen during the film's unfolding. We cannot be sure, and must draw our own conclusions. This would, too, work with a movie well, like it did with "Picnic At Hanging Rock," but the story and direction in "Fallen" is a brief and unique one--if you jump to the wrong conclusions about its missing plot twists, then you can get the wrong interpretation of what the movie is actually about.

Now on to what screenwriter Nicholas Kazan says the movie is about: John Hobbes is a cop who has troubles. After years of searching and plotting, he finally caught legendary serial killer Edgar Reese, the most wanted criminal in America. When Reese is executed, Hobbes thinks all of his fears and troubles are finally at and end. But then as Hobbes passes through the streets, he sees people passing by singing the same tune and talking in the same town as Reese once did. One person walks by acting like Reese, touches another, and then he/she becomes Reese. Hobbes becomes paranoid eventually at this, and shoots one of the people who is inhabited by the killer.

Only it's not really the killer. Hobbes, after secluding his family from the outside world, learns of a fallen angel legend from the years past called Azazel, who mythically masqueraded as a dead soul by passing through human forms.

If you've seen "The Exorcist III," you obviously know how the story is toned. People get killed again, others get hurt, Hobbes gets suspicious, and does some of his own investigating, eventually uncovering the whole plot which, surprisingly, is ingenious and creative.

The approach for the serial killer genre here is fantastic. It brings in the urban legend-ish background to tie in with the murdering spree, which, somehow, seems right out of "Seven." By the time the movie reached its climax, I was enthralled, and actually wanted to see more movie.

Alas, this is what I will regret saying. The last frames of the picture, which, normally, would shed some relief on the suspiciousness of the plot and its direction, are left without anything answered. No characters, no dialogue, and nothing tangible enlightens the tension here, therefore forcing us out of the theater in attempts to draw our own conclusions.

This is also the exact problem. Normally, this thing would be okay, but with a plot like "Fallen's," jumping to a conclusion is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Any type of wrong conclusion can easily mislead some people from what the story was actually trying to accomplish. This was a fallen angel which masqueraded as the killer, but according to some others, it was actually the killer, or it was the killer pretending to be a fallen angel.

Do you see what I mean? Which of these is supposed to be right? You'd think the movie would at least take into context that people can easily be mislead by these conclusions. Why did they insist on leaving out the important information?

Because of this, I cannot recommend "Fallen." Yes, it was true to the serial killer formula. Yes, it was entertaining. Yes, it was frightening. But it would have been more with a relief in story. Movies need story. "Fallen" has it, but not in a way for us to understand.

1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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