In the name of evil…or when science met Satan!
Somewhere in that Catholic haven of heresy, otherwise known as Italy, some weird worshipper of the Dark Lord has built a blasphemous Bulova to help tell the teaming minions of misery the exact second, minute, hour, day, month, year, decade, and century that Satan will be reborn onto planet Earth. The cult of crazies surrounding the timepiece of terror then concoct a real heap of man-goat goo by stating that the only proper way Old Scratch can make a comeback is by invading the body of a pre-teen fashion model. Fast-forward into the enlightened age of modern society, and little children around the world are dying in the name of good looks and religious fervor. And then there are the groups of underage Mary-Kate and Ashley types who seem to accidentally be giving up their ghost for the sake of creating a supporting act of seventeen seraphim, an angelic back-up band, for the arrival of Mr. Evil himself (in the guise of Number 18). Seems that if you add the number of the Beast (666) to itself, this integer idiocy all works out from the cosmic bean counter's side of things. Well, little spoiled brat Judy Stanton is targeted as Satan's new skin sack, and the evil Etruscan order has to find a way to lure her into the service of sin—oddly enough, their plan revolves around taking photos of underage sluts. It's up to her overprotective daddy and a couple of math savants to perform a little holy trinity trigonometry to save Judy before she signs on for a lifetime as that most misunderstood of Charlie's girls, The Eighteenth Angel.
Why does religious prophecy make it so dang burned complicated for its A-list Good vs. Evil cheerleaders to catch a return trip back to the terra firma side of this big blue marble to influence the small of brainpan? If Jesus and his home boys want to make a homecoming jaunt to Jerusalem to catch up on old times, why does it require seven signs and the saying of sooth? It seems like anytime that God or Beelzebub or Buddha wanna venture beyond their own habitat and regain a little earthly kingdom, they have to find Rube Goldberg and get him to invent a wacky rebirth machine that involves candles burning bits of string, goldfish swimming in goldfish bowls, and overstuffed cartoon glove hands on articulated metal rods. Such is the case with the reincarnation of the Dark Lord in The Eighteenth Angel. The way in which Master Mephistopheles is supposed to return to the planet and rule involves so much convoluted technology, insane genetic falderal, and numeric finger counting nomenclature that at some point you keep waiting for someone to break out the pocket calculator and discuss the need for eight maids a milking and/or six geese a laying. Okay, so Satan wants to look his best when he re-hits the streets. So we apparently need the unhinged Professor of Biology whose specialty is making DNA-free clone "blanks"—also known as ghoul faced monsters—in preparation for the big debut. And since Pitch's main mouthpiece, that disheveled deacon Father Simeon, read about it somewhere in a book with lots of Latin and Greek words in it, we apparently do need a dozen and a half dead kids to de-face and dispose of, the better to make the wrinkled gene sponges into viable vessels for Satan's spawning. But it's all in the name of overloaded nonsense. Even if everything works according to plan, we only get one Devil on the rebound. So what are the remaining seventeen corpses? Mulligans?
The Eighteenth Angel is far from frightening. It's more ludicrous than lurid. About the only truly creepy element introduced into this movie is the whole underage modeling angle that keeps throwing cherubic Rachael Leigh Cooke's pre-pubescent mug at the screen and asking us to accept her hyper-sexualized pouting and come-hither eyebrow arching as the actions of someone somewhere in the range of 12 to 15. Only eighteen at the time she made the film, she is constantly photographed within this angelic halo of innocence, which is then quickly and saucily shattered, like the dignity of child beauty pageant contestants, by the seedy layering on of sex and sexuality. About as appealing as those controversial Calvin Klein ads from a few years back, Cooke is supposed to represent purity potentially corrupted, but instead of giving her a gob of pea green soup to slosh at the audience, they turn her tacky and tramped up as she smolders in the arms of some swarthy Italian stable boy and swoons at the first adult male with a camera who asks her for the time of day. It's obvious from the artsy-fartsy death shots they use to illustrate their fate that the rest of the juvenile "Eighteen Angels" are still a few months' post training pants. This then further blurs the line between child and cheesecake turning what is supposed to be a simple satanic workout into an irritating brush with kiddie porn. Cooke's Judy constantly complains that her parents fail to understand her needs. Good thing to know that a bunch of sexless men in the service of the unholy demon dog have got her personal private parts priorities down pat.
Offered in an anamorphic widescreen presentation at 1.78:1, The Eighteenth Angel looks pretty good on this Columbia TriStar DVD. Filmed in a kind of mudbug green/brown, the transfer is clean and crisp. There is a great deal of depth to the scenery and even the special effects, which have a tendency to look even more unrealistic thanks to the digital format, seem perfectly acceptable here. About the only time the picture shows flaws is when there are extended scenes at night. Then once in a while, a little compression creeps in to throw a gray speckled haze over the proceedings. As for the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, it offers a few moments of disorienting shock startles and there is a nice ambience created in the monastery sequences. But this is not the kind of aural workout one expects from a modern Hollywood horror flick. Along with a smattering of trailers that really do nothing but take up additional space on the DVD, this is a rather bland package from the lady with the torch. But then again, this is a rather bland movie, one that overcomplicates the return of evil to the world for the sake of some plot machinations and numeric tomfoolery. David Seltzer, the creator of this crud, made a name for himself in the early '70s by crafting one of the best satanic rebirth films ever, the creepy and crawly Omen. Almost thirty years later, it appears that the heinous Beast of Burden doesn't simply need a willing priest and a hot lady jackal to re-spread his seed upon society. But the new algebraic antics of the tech savvy Antichrist seem about as believable as Donald in Mathmagic Land. And twice as menacing.
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