Angels Fall is one of the four Nora Roberts tele-flicks made in 2007 to recently come out on DVD, and it's not much better than Blue Smoke (please click here to read that review) - and certainly not as good as the trashy, fun Carolina Moon (you can click here to read that review). Co-starring a bunch of other actors I've never seen before, Angels Fall sports some spectacular Canadian scenery (subbing for Colorado), an overly familiar suspense plot, and a strangely reconfigured Heather Locklear - and all to very little effect.
Reese Gilmore (Heather Locklear) is trying to escape her demons by traveling on America's byways, with no clear destination and no set intentions except to keep moving. Waylaid by her car breaking down in a small mountain town in Wyoming, Reese takes a job as a cook at a local diner to pay for her expensive car repairs. While everyone tries to figure out what the story is behind the new good-looking cook, they can't imagine what horrors Reese goes over in her mind, again and again. Reese, a former chef in Boston, is the sole survivor of a brutal attack on her restaurant; everyone died, including her best friend - a death for which somehow, Reese blames herself.
Getting acquainted with her spectacular new surroundings, Reese takes a walk out by the mountains and rivers, where she spies a woman being strangled then killed by a mysterious killer whose face is covered by sunglasses and an orange hunting cap. Unfortunately, few believe her story, especially after the sheriff, Rick Marsden (Gary Hudson) tells everyone about Reese's past life, including her stint in a psychiatric hospital. Even hunky, brooding writer Brody (Johnathon Schaech) has a few doubts, even as he falls in love with the OCD-riddled Reese. Will the two lovers be able to figure out who the murderer is, before they're next on the list?
There's a tired sameness to Angels Fall that isn't alleviated by the cast or the locale. The "stranger coming to a small town with a secret" framework, probably best done in Bad Day at Black Rock (although TV's Joe Mannix seemed to find himself in one of those town about every other week), has been so thoroughly examined that it's hard to come up with anything engaging to make such a plot construction stand out. Having Locklear's character a gorgeous basket case isn't all that original, either, and it doesn't help that Locklear, just fine when she's playing over-the-top scheming little tramps on Melrose Place or Dynasty, is a little out of her depth in essaying a character who's suffering the kinds of emotional distress that Reese is supposedly enduring. After all, how can you adequately convey a character who has undergone electroshock therapy, when your "heavy dramatic" acting skills begin and end with "catatonic?" Locklear, who noticeably has undergone some unfortunate cosmetic surgery, frankly appears too old to play Reese convincingly; it's rather a shock to see her in this kind of part, looking not at all like her confident old self.
The rest of the actors are generic and bland - as is Angels Fall, for that matter. There's just no anticipation or suspense generated by the film, because we're constantly three moves ahead of it (anybody who can't figure out who the murderer is by the halfway mark - and I'm terrible at solving movie mysteries - needs to go back to their Encyclopedia Browns). Don't get me wrong; I like pap. But it better offer something unique or interesting in the mix, or at the very least, be competently done. Angels Fall shows no signs of falling under either of those two criteria.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.