I was planning to include this tidbit in my last article about the horror genre but I found this film to be so interesting that it deserves an article of its own.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Fallen, a film about demonic possession starring Denzel Washington and directed by Gregory Hoblit which presents a very unconventional take on the genre. It is by far the scariest demonic-possession-themed film I have ever watched and I will elaborate on why later on in the article. However, while this is indeed a movie about demonic possession, if your expecting spinning heads and projectile vomiting, I’m afraid Fallen just isn’t that kind of movie.
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Okay, let’s begin:
The story centers around police detective John Hobbes, a kind and noble-hearted man dedicated to his job and caring for his family which includes his brother Art who may or may not be mentally handicapped. He takes pains to uphold the law and, based on his conversations with his partner and other police officers, he has never accepted bribes or engaged in any activities unbecoming of a good cop. In the first part of the film, one can even be tempted to believe that Hobbes may be one of those rare people who might do great things in the world someday.
Of course, all of that is cut short and deconstructed when convicted serial killer Edgar Reese is executed via gas chamber. It is then revealed that Edgar Reese has been possessed by a demon that goes by the name Azazel and that it has the ability to possess people within the immediate vicinity. However, what is actually impressive about this film is that Azazel is more than your stereotypical demonic character in a horror movie, being smart and well-versed with human pop culture but not losing his status as a truly evil entity.
The character is perhaps one of the more interesting horror film monsters I’ve chanced upon. He’s not huge like Godzilla, not particularly strong like Jason Voorhees, not corny like Freddy Kruger and not mysterious like Slender Man. He is, however, very witty and can appear in all shapes and sizes thanks to the fact that he can change bodies by possessing different people which is pretty much his major selling point.
But for all his comical attitude, he is still depicted as a very evil character and it’s not just because he’s plotting along with other demons to destroy human civilization and bring about the end of the world as we know it. He is evil both in big ways such as when he kills people in brutal and terrifying ways and is also evil in the little things too in that he never misses a chance to commit evil and ruin the lives of people whenever he can. He is every bit as happy to murder innocent people through painful methods just as he is happy to slander an otherwise good man or take time to be mean to people he may run into.
While the movie is about demonic possession, you won’t find the usual cliches in this movie. No one’s head starts spinning, no one projectile vomits and no one goes crazy at the sight of holy objects. There are almost no supernatural elements shown onscreen save for Azazel’s POV which is a dark yellow filter. Azazel does display some demonic attributes in that he can’t seem to enter places like churches and can speak many ancient languages.
The supernatural aspects of the film is largely downplayed and instead plays up the paranoia of fighting an enemy that could be just about anyone with millennia worth of knowledge and experience. There are few flashy things to be seen onscreen with Azazel pretty much sticking to mundane conventions perhaps out of his own arrogance as a fallen angel and using only his wits and age-old cunning to antagonize the hero. This makes the movie all the more believable despite its supernatural theme and easily understandable by people unused to the genre.
While indeed a demonic possession movie, Fallen has stronger elements of a detective story and battle of wits rather than just an evil spirit menacing a hero which is why I found it to my liking. It also goes to show that you don’t really need a lot of fancy special effects to make a good demonic horror movie as there’s very little that actually marks Azazel as supernatural asides of course from him being able to jump from body to body and hijack their nervous systems. The only thing that pretty much reveals Azazel to viewers is when he chooses to reveal himself by singing some good old Rolling Stones songs.
Okay, as already mentioned, the movie has very few scenes that actually feature anything supernatural. There aren’t even any flashy lights in people’s eyes or sinister smoke coming from out of nowhere to announce Azazel’s presence. However, the movie really scared and fascinated me with its premise.
After watching the film, my apprentice and I briefly discussed its elements and agreed that if demons did indeed exist in our world, they would more than likely operate like Azazel. Granted, this was just a conversation between two largely amateurish dudes but, you have to admit, if demons are indeed the ancient evil spirits the Bible claims them to be, then it’s clear that they’ve been with us for millennia and plan our downfall as we speak. My apprentice and I even discussed that the usual “symptoms” of demonic possession such as spinning heads and so forth might just be a distraction; their way of feeding us humans red herrings so we will fail to recognize them when they actually are there.
Another thing to note would be, if for the sake of the argument, demons really did operate like Azazel, it’s kind of horrifying when you end up as one of his victims. He doesn’t really even need to get to you physically to hurt you. He could easily just possess your boss and fire you or get your significant other to sleep with another person.
See you around…
I HAVE RETURNED TO LAY WASTE TO OUR ENEMIES!