Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)

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Released 5-Oct-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 84:00 (Case: 81)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Linda Hassani
Studio
Distributor
Full Moon Pictures
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Constantin Draganescu
Angela Featherstone
Cristina Stoica
Valentin Teodesiu
Nicholas Worth
Marius Stanescu
Constantin Cotimanis
Charlotte Stewart
Heros
Daniel Markel
Mihai Bisericanu
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music Fuzzbee Morse


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Angela Featherstone is Veronica Iscariot, a demon from Hell who dreams of a "roof of blue" and wishes to experience the pleasures of Earth by ascending into the mortal world. No one is permitted to leave Hell however, and Veronica has a violent fight with her Frank Thring look-a-like father (Nicholas Worth) when he tries to stop her. She nevertheless rises to the surface via a portal, and with horns, tail, wings and clothes removed (yum!), ends up in a nondescript city accompanied by her dog "hellraker". Oddly enough the city and inhabitants are all very eastern European but the accents are American, and the naive Veronica soon finds that life outside of Hell is not as appealing as she thought. In this version of Hell the demons actually work for God, say grace before chowing down on human joints, and fulfil their God given job of punishing sinners. Veronica brings this work ethic with her to Earth, and after encountering the doctor Max Barris (Daniel Markel) following a car accident, administers some demonic justice in her own inimitable way to evil doers - including the city Mayor (Richard Barnes). Veronica and the kind hearted Max fall in love and she gains an insight into the innocent and beautiful side of being mortal. Veronica’s vigilante actions on Earth however mean that she too is now doomed to suffer with the damned in Hell unless the angel (Kehli O'Byrne) can save her soul.

     Full Moon Entertainment produced many low budget straight to video horror flicks back in the 1990s, and Dark Angel is fairly typical of that genre. Shot in Full Moon’s favourite country Romania (apparently it’s cheap there) on a shoestring budget, we have the usual unconvincing special effects, dodgy make-up, and hammy acting. Fortunately however in Featherstone we have a truly appealing leading “lady”, whose viciousness is magnificently offset by her charming naivety and amazing good looks. Cinematographer Vivi Dragan Vasile always makes sure that Featherstone’s arctic blue (possibly colour enhanced) eyes are always well lit in quieter moments, whereas they turn a moody dark brown or red when she is angry. Hell would be (almost) a nice place to be if all demons looked like her. She can also act – alternating between compassion, steely menace, and a violent indifference to carnage in truly convincing style. Markel is also quite assured in the acting stakes as are the two investigating cops Harper (Mike Genovese) and Greenberg (Michael C. Mahon), however the rest of the supporting cast are strictly B grade. The Romanian streetscapes and sets are beautifully filmed and overcome the obvious low production values. There is lots of humour included – unintentionally or not, including parts where we probably shouldn’t be laughing, such as in the Hell torture scenes. One early part reminded me of the classic Rowan Atkinson “Welcome to Hell” joke, but the delivery from the demon “teacher” was really bad. The make-up department could also have covered over Veronica’s smallpox vaccination scar I suppose, and where did the hundreds of lit candles come from during Veronica and Max’s sexy time?

     Quibbles aside, and despite the usual low budget foibles, this is probably the most engaging Full Moon film I’ve seen. With suitable amounts of gore, gratuitous nudity, and the sexiest demon ever committed to video tape - what’s not to like?

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This DVD is presented in the original aspect of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. If you’ve seen other Full Moon DVDs then this example is pretty typical. The opening frames show lots of telecine wobble and white artefacts appearing against the black background. Fortunately the black and white artefacts aren’t as obvious further into the film although they are still there if you look. There is also a thin black vertical line through some scenes at around 41:10. Colours are rather nice with the flames of Hell really blazing on the screen with rich reds and golds. Skin tones are accurate if a little pale at times – with Featherstone’s blue eyes really jumping out of the screen. Blacks are quite good with detail in the night scenes well defined. The overall image is soft with a real VHS look about it which is typical for a Full Moon movie. Given the age and quality of the source I doubt whether a better version will be forthcoming.

     There are no subtitles.

     This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The single Dolby Digital 2.0 track is encoded at 192Kb/s. As usual for Full Moon productions this audio track is uninspiring. Voices are clear enough and mostly in synch however the dubbing of American voices on the Romanian actors was not always convincing. With surround encoding activated there was some effective ambience and surround effects added, however the subwoofer remained relatively silent. The music score by Fuzzbee Morse (parents were obviously jokers) is pretty good, and suitably enhances the on screen action.

     This audio track is hardly reference quality and is included here at a low bit rate, however it is reasonably good for this sort of production. There were no particular faults noticed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     The menu is static with no audio.

Featurette – Behind the Scenes. (6:14)

     1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio recorded at 192Kb/s. Director Linda Hassani and others on the set of Dark Angel describing some aspects of the filming including the building of Hell in a genuine castle and creation of special effects. Very VHS “quality” video as is the audio - but serviceable enough. Quite short and interesting enough for a look.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This version seems to be the only one available at time of writing although the movie itself is included in compilation DVD box sets.

Summary

     Dark Angel - The Ascent is a guilty pleasure. There are plenty of problems with it including low production values, mostly hammy acting and inherent silliness, however the radiant Featherstone somehow manages to pull it off. It's not particularly gory, and not scary at all, but somehow the eighty four minutes seem to fly. The ending was a bit abrupt, and I certainly would have liked a more satisfying conclusion as it seemed the director tried to close it all off a bit hastily. Nevertheless I thought it highly entertaining and certainly one of Full Moon Entertainment's better efforts. Highly recommended for B horror movie fans.

     The video quality is acceptable. The audio quality is acceptable. Extras are meagre but interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mike B (read my bio)
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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