Fallen ★★★

This one has been on my list for almost 20 years because a friend recommended it, but I was always finding excuses not to watch it because it looked like it was trying to hard and because I'm slightly allergic to horror that revolves around demons, fallen angels, and demonic possession. Even though demons scared me as a kid, something about my Catholic upbringing (or perhaps being lapsed Catholic) short circuits these things for me. I do sometimes still enjoy them, but they never grab me.

Cut to this year. I randomly ordered it from my library network and threw it on while doing dishes and making my kids lunches one night. The basic set-up is hoary as hell; a killer (of course it's Elias Koteas) about to be executed swears he'll get revenge on the cop who brought him in. In addition to films where that kind of swearing revenge happens in the distant past (Black Sunday, The Brainiac, for two examples) you can find this idea beaten to death in old crime and horror radio shows. I kind of wished they'd just rolled with that very basic set up-instead we get way too much of Koteas swearing to show he's a bad man (boring) and Koteas singing "Time is on My Side", which becomes a running theme in the film and reeks of obvious choices and boomer bullshit.

It takes a while, but eventually Detective Hobbes (Denzel Washington) realizes that he's up against a body jumping demon. Washington isn't doing his best work here, but the man has undeniable presence and charisma, and he keeps this interesting just by being here-as does the amazing supporting cast that includes Donald Sutherland, John Goodman, Aida Tuttoro, James Gandolfini and more. Aside from some now dated choices, the direction and cinematography are good-this is a good looking movie with good actors. The script has good ideas mixed with ones that fail, so it's a real shame that they didn't polish it up one more time-and perhaps give us a more interesting take on a body jumping eternal doer of evil in our midst than yet another 90s boasty/profane serial killer.