FEATURE: Shocktober '15 - Angel Heart

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.

Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), a private detective in New York is hired by the mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert de Niro) to track down a missing musician by the name of Johnny Favourite, real name Johnny Liebling. He was supposed to be in a hospital, suffering severe neurological trauma as a result of his injuries in the Second World War. Harry's investigation soon leads him to New Orleans and the door of Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet) who knows more about Johnny's activities than she initially lets on. The continuing search leads Harry down a dark path that might be considerably more devilish than he realises.

Combining a noir with the horror genre is a move that should be made more often as the two genres cross over fairly easily and with fascinating results such as Seven and in Angel Heart too. Both genres rely heavily on atmospherics and Parker's film piles that on in spades; everyone is drenched either in rain or sweat, the music is bluesy and slow, and the narrative is punctured by bloody visions that grow more mysterious as the film continues. Even without the supernatural elements, it's a solid slice of neo-noir, but it's adding the horror to it that ties the whole film together.

As the narrative builds and the horror elements become more apparent, Parker steadies everything an assured directorial hand. He never allows the pure horror to take over, instead using genre elements and a religious twist to infuse the neo-noir with an extra layer of symbolism. Some of it is more overt (Louis Cyphre for example. I mean, really) whilst other aspects gently reveal themselves over the course of the film. There's also a nice ambiguity playing through it; do these people know these things to be true? Or do they simply believe it to be true?

It's a testament to Robert de Niro's performance that he manages to remain completely creepy even with a man bun. Of course, the pointed nails and emphatic egg-eating (no joke) help, but the man bun is quite something. He casts an eerie shadow over the film and feels archaic even in the period setting. His scenes with Rourke are a great exercise in contrasts; Rourke's all energy and slightly manic whilst de Niro is almost statuesque in his stillness. Rourke is a great lead, too, playing the sad sack gumshoe with ease and growing into the more emotional heavy lifting as the film continues.

A hazy, sweaty little thriller, Angel Heart is a good example of the kind of sparks that can fly when two genres heavily reliant on atmospherics blend together to produce something that really crawls under your skin.

- Becky

You can find my other Shocktober '15 reviews here.

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