Alan Parker's adaptation of William Hjortsberg's novel Falling Angel is one of those underated cinema gems that seems to fall between the cracks at the box office to find new life on home video. Previously only available in a barebones DVD release, Artisan answers the prayers of Angel Heart devotees with a digitally remastered Special Edition, loaded with hellacious extra goodies.
Angel Heart is the story of detective Harry Angel (Rourke) who is hired by the enigmatic Louis Cypher (DeNiro) to track down a missing singer who owes a large debt to him. Angel follows the trail to the Louisiana bayou and back alleys of New Orleans and finds himself neck deep in Voodoo, murder, and the dark underworld of the delta. Angel finds a girl who is said to be the daughter of the missing singer, Epiphany Proudfoot (Bonet), who seems to know more than she lets on about the whereabouts of her father, and Harry Angel himself. As Angel feels he is closing in on his bounty he comes to the realization that closure in this case could cost him his life, or more.
Parker paints a New Orleans that is dark, gritty and surrealistic. It's a nightmare world of the dead and undead, soul merchants and witchcraft, a place where murder is commonplace and death is only the beginning. At the same time he underscores the beauty and culture of the bayou with a thunderous zydeco soundtrack and lush portrayal of the simpler elements of life outside the city. Instead of making the backwoods inhabitants faceless caricatures straight out of Boorman's Deliverance, he shows them as joyous, celebratory people. The films lightest moments happen here (and it's no coincidence that the only sunny moments in the film are when Angel visits these places), while "civilization" is presented as the dark backward.
Angel Heart is more psychological drama than outright horror. While references to the Devil, zombies, and voodoo culture abound, the real horror is what happens inside of Harry's head. What makes this film so effective is what it doesn't show you. Parker leaves much open to the viewer's imagination and doesn't hit you over the head with things, although he does suggest it with seemingly innocuous cuts of fan blades and dripping blood, all of which come to light in the films stunning final act.
Artisan goes all out with this Special Edition, offering up a commentary track by Alan Parker, a selected scene commentary featuring Mickey Rourke, the fascinating "The Voodoo in Angel Heart" documentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews and more. It's a great set for a great film, and it's been a long time coming!!
Fans of dark, quiet, psychological horror films like "Don't Look Now" "Jacob's Ladder" and even "The Sixth Sense" will find a lot to love about Angel Heart. It's a taut and terrifying tale of redemption that will have you thinking long after the end credits roll.