The summer of 1987 gave us some great films—Predator, The Untouchables, The Lost Boys, and Innerspace—yet within this wealth of exciting, eccentric cinema, it’s easy to miss one of the greatest of them all. This may be partly due to the fact that it didn’t come out in the summer, which I suspect to be some sort of production misjudgment-cum-cosmic mistake. This film is Alan Parker’s pulp horror shocker Angel Heart, and in its stylish badness, its trash sensibility elevated to aesthetic perfection, it represents one of cinema’s great overlooked singularities.
The true core triumph of Angel Heart is its artful nastiness, its commitment to its depraved pulp pedigree. Ultimately, that’s what you should see when you step back and take in the whole of the film. But we can get to that later. We have to start with the details, the connective tissue: Three actors, all at different places in their careers, all setting the stage for their future histories, coming together to make Angel Heart’s sick magic. You could probably step outside of Angel Heart and write a whole study on how the actors involved related to the film and to one another. I don’t have that kind of space, but I’ll certainly still mention it on the way to more fundamental things.