Angel Heart VHS
Set in Harlem and New Orleans in 1955, this supernatural thriller stirred a brief controversy when released in 1987 because some scenes featuring Lisa Bonet (then a popular cast member of The Cosby Show) were considered too sexually explicit to be rated R. The edited material was restored for the unrated video release, and the movie now makes a fitting double bill with Fallen, with its similar plot about a sullen detective (Mickey Rourke) who is hired to find a missing person by a shady client with pointy fingernails named Louis Cyphre (Lucifer, get it?). Rourke's investigation leads him into an underworld of voodoo and forbidden desires, and as the mystery unfolds director Alan Parker fills every scene with conspicuous style and atmospheric excess, compelling critic Pauline Kael to observe that, "Parker simply doesn't have the gift of making evil seductive, and he edits like a flasher." And yet, this movie does cast a spell of its own (Roger Ebert's review was considerably more charitable), and the performances of Rourke, De Niro, Bonet, and Charlotte Rampling are well suited to the ominous mood. --Jeff Shannon
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The DVD version contains two especially worthwhile extra features that interview New Orleans voodoo practitioners. A twenty minute History of Voodoo in New Orleans feature explains why voodoo is an integral part of New Orleans culture. A twelve minute Voodoo in the Media feature explains that Hollywood sensationalizes voodoo's potential for evil, and that New Orleans voodoo is practiced primarily as a benign religion. The two features are a worthwhile introduction to New Orleans voodoo, but remember that the practitioners being interviewed earn part of their incomes from voodoo activities. IMO the book Black & White Magic of Marie Laveau depicts the historically accurate range of voodoo activities practiced by Marie Laveau, the so-called Voodoo Queen Of New Orleans.
The twist was spoiled for me, but you'll probably start smelling the whiffs that something just ain't right with Johnny Fortune's story...or Harry Angel's. When Harry asks around about Johnny's whereabouts, too many people are both convinced he's dead, yet convinced they saw him not that long ago.
I'm not sure the end fired off perfectly -- the reveal is given at a breakneck speed, with hardly time to breathe or really digest what the hell is going on. But, I admire how the movie sticks true and firm to its greatest asset: atmosphere. The dark, ghoulish, and depressing air that infiltrates every scene -- even a scene at the beach is a dismal affair. The entire landscape screams at Harry that he needs to turn around...and of course he freaking doesn't.