Angel of Death is billed as a horror movie. It looks pretty good, too — it stars then-couple Mira Sorvino and Olivier Martinez, good actors both, and has a compelling religious plotline. Once you start watching the DVD, you quickly learn that the director wasn’t up to the actors, and the screenwriter didn’t know how to tell the story properly.
The action takes place in atmospheric Spain, amongst bullfighters and Easter pagentry. Mira Sorvino plays Maria, a smart and plucky homicide detective who must contend with chauvinism while prancing around in a very, very short skirt. Her new partner Quemada (Olivier Martinez, playing the exact same character as he did in Taking Lives) is surly and unsupportive, but manages to look cool and suave, worthy of his one-word moniker, while reluctantly following Maria’s lead. Both struggle with anguished accents and dippy dialogue while chasing after an elusive murderer who’s a crack shot with a banderilla.
During the fervently Catholic country’s Semana Santa celebrations, a spate of murders takes place. The most shocking of which is the killing of a pair of sexually brash twins in their villa. Their rotting killer-bods aren’t discovered until they’ve putrefied… An elderly lady (Alida Valli, whose horror pedigree includes Dario Argento’s Suspiria, and Inferno) who lives nearby finally smells a rat and calls the police. As it turns out, the old woman has some interesting ties to the perpetrator of these horrible crimes.
Well, I imagine they are horrible. For a horror/serial killer yarn, far too much is left to the imagination. If we can’t have a decent level of suspense, we might as well get a bloodbath of gore. A few hints are thrown out that perhaps the ritualistic killings are the work of an immortal being (could it be… SATAN?!), but that part never pans out. In the end, it’s just a routine detective procedural with less appeal than a 20 year old Columbo rerun. While I will admit the storyline is potentially interesting (it’s based on a complex novel by David Hewson), it simply doesn’t work in this context. Things might have been better with a different cast and crew; but if this so-called horror movie is ever remade, I don’t think I’ll be fooled again.
Released in France under the title Semana Santa in 2002, Angel of Death hits the DVD shelves stateside on January 18, 2002. If you’re at all curious to see the movie, wait until it goes into the $1.99 bargain bin (which shouldn’t be very long).
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson