The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Gregory Hoblit

REVIEWED: 01-26-98

Gregory Hoblit's supernatural thriller is a twist on the world's oldest excuse: "The devil made me do it." Denzel Washington plays an amiable, straitlaced detective plagued by a demon; in fact, the sadistic, singing succubus is framing him for a crime and possessing everyone who comes into contact with him -- his fellow cops, his young nephew, strangers on the street.

Fallen is based on a delightfully shuddersome premise: demons can pass from person to person when we bump into each other on the subway or shake hands. This supposition lets suspense prevail over gore for a couple of cases of real heebie-jeebies. As always, Washington delivers a valiant performance, and John Goodman tosses off amusing precinct badinage as his partner ("Someone's playing with my dick, and it ain't me," he growls).

But the film baldly rips off Seven and The Haunting for ho-hum effect. It's further bedeviled by a folksy noir voice-over, narrative dead ends, and the inevitable urge of most thrillers to hurtle into a risible, over-the-top climax. When Washington starts gibbering in Biblical tongues and pondering the Big Questions, it's high time to ring up the Exorcist.

--Alicia Potter

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