“Fallen” is a horror story with a supernatural twist. A mind-bender that makes us apprehensive at the onslaught, and keeps us dangling on a proverbial ledge until the very end. Everything is a tribulation, because in our minds, ‘evil is real.’ It’s real, and now permeating every aspect of everyday life. That beer with the guys at the end of a long day, the unnerving phone calls in the middle of the night where there never seems to be anyone on the other end, even a chance encounter with a stranger on the street who casually glances in your direction; some of the movie’s most eerie moments are images of John Hobbs fumbling with a nickel that he kept in his pocket, leaving us to puzzle out its meaning.
Detective John Hobbs (Denzel Washington), is enjoying a stellar career in law enforcement alongside his long-time partner Jonesy (John Goodman), basically just cruising along in life when he is summoned to the execution of a vicious killer, Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas). An encounter that would alter his entire destiny.
Reese is giddy and cagey, singing an eerie song, “Time Is on My Side,” right up until the moment that he takes his last breath. And then it’s over, but the point-of-view shot lingers above his lifeless body. Watching. Leaving us to wonder…
I believe that there exists another layer of reality, which the natural eye is not privy to, and in this ‘alternate’ reality there are times when otherworldly entities are allowed to wreak havoc in our lives. The eerie way that the point-of-view shot moves from the dead body of Edgar Reese to the officer who had presided over the execution seemed to confirm as much. It was as though this unseen entity was now out for a bit of vengeance before it, again turns its attention to the original target, which is Detective Hobbs.
Now that Oscar nominee Nicholas Kazan has established that Hobbs is undoubtedly in the crosshairs of something supernatural, he sets out to construct the real world around him where Hobbs (lives with his brother and nephew), (has a solid relationship with his partner Jonesy) at work, and everything appears to be going great. Except for the one 'fly in the ointment,' that is his shifty lieutenant (Donald Sutherland). There's something not quite right about this guy.
In this horror story wrapped in a police procedural, a series of strange murders happen immediately following the death of Edgar Reese. All of which point to Detective Hobbs as the prime suspect, calling into question the detective’s character, and everything he’s accomplished throughout his entire career.
As the detective's life continues to unravel around this series of coincidences, we discover that amidst all of these strange developments are connections, and then we watch as Hobbs sets out to piece them together. Despite the fact, that no matter how hard he fights to right these, perceived wrongs, the adverse circumstances continue to have a ripple effect in his life.
I felt that there was so much more that Director Gregory Hoblit, who is also responsible for the 1996 masterpiece “Primal Fear," could have done with this film. Perhaps delved deeper into the evil presence in hot pursuit of the bewildered detective, or tugged a little harder on the thread that lead Hobbs to Gretta Milano (Embeth Davidtz), the daughter of a disgraced cop who committed suicide in the face of these exact same suspicions and offenses.
When Hobbs teams up with the disgraced officer’s daughter, the evil entity becomes more aggressive. As much is evidenced by the eerie scene inside the squad room where this spirit taunts Hobbs, moves from one colleague to the other, leading him from the squad room out onto the street where it then warns the detective to 'back off.' But what is it about his colleagues and these pedestrians that causes us to question whether or not they really are what they seem? What makes them so vulnerable that they so readily become the conduits through which this evil presence moves to do its bidding?
After their initial encounter, there’s this huge plot hole where her character’s development should have been used to build upon the relationship with Detective Hobbs. At the very least, to explain her nervous, twitchy, foreboding behavior...
She warns Hobbs, “If you value your life, if there’s even one human being you care about, walk away from this case.” And we wonder why? She knew what he was up against, what they were both up against, but there isn’t enough interaction between the two of them to establish whether or not her father had left her any warnings. Or to explain why she all of a sudden felt like she could trust Hobbs more than say, the people that this evil spirit had used to assault her on the street..., in broad daylight.
The second opportunity to add more background to their relationship, was after Hobbs had gone to the Milano family cabin and found the word, “Azazel” scrawled on the wall of the basement where Gretta's father had ended his life. It seemed to me that if her character had been fleshed out more, it would have forced them to add more depth to Hobbs’ character. “Fallen” could have easily been extended beyond its two hours, and four minutes, to allow the terror that had infiltrated the lives of these characters enough time to build up to a nail-biting climax. Only then would the disgraced detective's suicide have been a more realistic, and satisfying ending.
And yet, thirteen years later I'm still so intrigued by this film that I've written, am currently producing an animated feature film titled, “Knave Ridge,” that sort of picks up where “Fallen” left off.