Release Date: January 16, 1998
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland
Runtime: 120 minutes
Biblical worldview admitting God the creator, but focusing on fallen angels & demons, with some Christian references & some occult references; 49 obscenities & 4 profanities; extensive violence including man gassed in gas chamber, men shot, fights, dead bodies in bathtubs, men killed by lethal injections; no sex; glimpses of nude corpses but no private parts; alcohol use & abuse; drug use; cigarettes laced with poison; and, theological discussions & occult texts.
FALLEN is a theological treatise on fallen angels which almost hits the cross on the safety net as it plunges to a conclusion and strives to achieve the theological morality tale status of a classical Victorian horror tale (such as DRACULA). Regrettably, FALLEN fails to realize its potential and hit the mark because it never comes to grips with the only answer to demonic attack.
As FALLEN opens, Detective John Hobbs (Denzel Washington) appears to be fighting for his life in the woods. As he writhes on the ground, he explains what brought him to this point. He is a highly decorated police detective who brought a vicious murderer, Edgar Reese, to justice. On death row, Edgar asks to see Hobbs before Edgar is gassed. The hyper-active Edgar oscillates between coherence and strange babbling while speaking to Hobbs. Suddenly, Edgar thrusts his hand through the bars and tries to touch Hobbs. Hobbs remains serene and composed, and Edgar tells him a seemingly senseless riddle. When he is led to the gas chamber, Edgar mocks the audience assembled to watch his demise. As Edgar dies, it appears as if his soul is scanning the area around the gas chamber from an elevated perspective.
Soon after Edgar’s death, there is a murder which follows the same unique pattern used by Edgar. More than that, the murderer scribbles the same riddle on the wall which Edgar whispered to Hobbs just before he died.
As the story develops, more murders are committed, even murders of the person who committed the last murder, each one copying the pattern, and, each one leaving clues to the riddle. Hobbs begins to realize that something supernatural is at work. He searches through the police records of several policeman who were highly decorated and went radically astray.
When he locates the daughter of one of these disgraced policeman, she tells him about her deep theological concerns: that there is a God, and there are fallen angels . At first Hobbs rejects this theological information, but following the clues, he is led to several occult books by one of the fathers of 20th Century occultism, Gerard Manley Hall. Also, he consults a linguist and discovers that Edgar was not speaking gibberish but an ancient middle eastern language, Assyrian. Eventually, Hobbs discovers that he is being stalked by the fallen angel, Azazel. He finds out that these fallen angels travel between people by touch, and they cannot survive outside of a person’s body for more than one breath. When someone dies, they have one breadth and a distance of 500 cubits to seek another host body. Eventually, Hobbs thinks he has found out the secret to destroy Azazel, but a fallen angel who has been around for thousands of years is not so easily annihilated.
FALLEN is a primer for spiritual warfare. Several of the scenes are amongst the best that have ever been done in Hollywood on the subject of demonic oppression and possession. The acting and craftsmanship give deep credibility to some very profound theological discussions. Clearly, there are attempts to bring out spiritual truths in the movie. God is presented as sovereign Creator, and man is presented as a moral experiment. However, FALLEN never achieves its potential because it never looks to Jesus for the answer. Hobbs tries to defeat the evil Azazel by tricking it, and the fallen angel is not so easily defeated.
As a cautionary tale, FALLEN works. As a movie that will open some people’s eyes to the spiritual realm, it succeeds. However, because it fails to present The Answer to evil, it almost portrays evil as powerful enough to get its own way, and so the movie may reinforce occult fallacies in susceptible minds who do not focus on the good, but only on the bad.