Just in time for the scantily clad summer season, VIDEO HATE SQUAD finally takes an excursion into the made-for-TV realm with this vintage slice of America's 1980s mounting awareness of stranger-danger following the murder of young Adam Walsh. Seriously, if you’ve ever wanted to know which of your friends had a messed up childhood, then bring them to this screening.
One of the key rewards of showing movies to wider audiences is watching how people react to them, and while FALLEN ANGEL is relatively tame by most people’s current standards, its topic never fails to provoke. While some find it to be enveloped in an unintentional black humor, there are others who still find it a disturbing glance at a taboo subject. To the latter half, this is a topic that absolutely should never be made light of. There is still nervousness in the laughter of those who are amused by Richard Masur menacing the impish Dana Hill’s puppy with a prodding finger as he threatens her. The subject is certainly an uncomfortable one and not to be made light of, but the ritual of being able to sit in the theater while confronting common fears with a giggle is empowering. After all, some people are more prone to laugh through horror films where the worst is done to people on screen, though I think we can all agree that the reality of mass murder sucks.
Mixing elements of THE BAD NEWS BEARS with Paul Schrader's HARDCORE, FALLEN ANGEL is exceptionally creepy despite being “just a TV movie.” The late Dana Hill stars as Jennifer Philips, a young girl on the threshold of burgeoning womanhood who has recently lost her father. When her mother, played by Melinda Dillon, starts to develop a romantic relationship with a family friend (Ronny Cox), Jennifer revolts and hits the streets. Meanwhile, kiddie porn talent scout/girls softball coach Howard Nichols (Richard Masur) is under the gun to replace one of their stars who’s falling apart at the seams. While seeking new potential stars at a local arcade, Howie spots Jennifer and is soon plying her with confidence-building flattery. Jennifer quickly winds up starring in Coach Howie’s orange-Crush-&-quaalude-fueled woodland photo shoots.
Masur, as the manipulative coach, is both seedy and sweet, but is never over the top despite the fact that his lines are a rich lunch of double entendres. At one point, when meeting Jennifer's parents after a losing softball game, he puts his arm around her and says, "Don't worry. We'll work on her grip next week." The allusion is obvious and gross, but still kind of funny in a gallows sort of way.
In all, FALLEN ANGEL is a unique sign of its time, and though it would be sick to call it nostalgic, it has matured into a very grim piece of camp with an outstanding cast. And of course, it's currently only available on VHS.
- Max of Video Hate Squad
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TICKETS to this emotional slaughter are only $1, and they're RIGHT HERE!!!