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Film: Angel Heart

For the manga and anime series of this name, see Angel Heart.

Angel Heart is a 1987 Horror/Film Noir directed by Alan Parker, starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet.

Set in the late 1950's, a private detective (Rourke) is hired by a mysterious client (De Niro) who seeks to find a man named Johnny Favorite. This search leads him to New Orleans, deep in the heart of its voodoo district. What starts off as a simple missing person's case soon escalates into multiple murders and the supernatural.

Upon release, the movie was controversial due to a sex scene with Lisa Bonet, resulting in her being kicked off The Cosby Show.

This movie depends on a massive Twist Ending, so a lot of the examples are spoiler-tagged. Highlight at your own risk.


This film contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Johnny Favorite may be an evil S.O.B., but the Harry Angel persona seems like a pretty decent guy. Too bad they're both going to Hell...
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys. Johnny Favourite was a real ladies man. Subverted with Epiphany's mother however, who according to her daughter eventually realized with a monster Favourite was.
    Epiphany: You know what they say. It's always the badass that make a girl's heart beat faster.
  • Asshole Victim: Considering how many of the murder victims were in some way part of Johnny Favorite's Deal with the Devil scheme, it's hard to feel sorry for some of them. The major exception is Epiphany, whose supernatural rites seem to be pretty harmless and did nothing to deserve getting raped to death with a loaded gun by her own father.
  • Awful Truth: See everything spoiled out.
    Louis Cyphre: Alas, how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The bad guy is running around killing off everybody Harry Angel interviews, and each one gets him in further trouble with the police. Harry Angel is desperately trying to clear his name and get the heck out of this madness. Unfortunately that's complicated when it turns out he is Johnny Favourite, the man he's been searching for the whole time. To make things worse, it turns out there was an even bigger bad guy- the Devil- who orchestrated the entire movie. Literally, after Johnny Favourite tried to cheat the Devil of the soul he owed him, he suffered an injury in World War II that gave him amnesia, allowing him to take over the memories of the man he tried to steal his soul from. Then the Devil let him fall into a false sense of security, only for it all to come crashing down around him twelve years later when he literally hired Favourite to find out who he really was, commit a series of sins that included rape and the murder of all the people who helped him in his efforts to get out of his deal- and in the process condemn himself to Hell, thus fulfilling his debt. There's a reason why the tagline was "Harry Angel is searching for the truth. Pray he doesn't find it".
  • Beat Still, My Heart / And Show It to You: Margaret, in a scene that is actually an in-universe Call Back to what happened to the real Harry Angel.
  • The Big Easy: The movie ends up in a stereotypical New Orleans.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Johnny Favourite's real last name is "Liebling". It means "darling" or... "favorite". Some translations, it means "God's favorite."
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Played with. Johnny/Harry kills several people under Satan's influence, but it's left deliberately vague whether the Devil is directly compelling him to commit the murders or if he's allowing Johnny Favourite's vile personality some freedom to indulge in these acts and Johnny is keeping Harry from finding out the truth about himself.
  • Classy Cane: The mysterious client sports one.
  • Deal with the Devil: Johnny Favorite selling his soul for stardom and then trying to get out of it by sacrificing an innocent man caused the whole plot.
  • Death by Sex: When Epiphany has sex with Angel, he starts strangling her. She is later murdered by the possessed Angel, who is revealed to be Johhny Favorite—who is also, by the way, HER FATHER—with a gun to her vagina.
  • Downer Ending: Harold Angel is is revealed to be Johnny Favorite, who had sold his soul to the devil and tried to back out of it. He murders everyone his past persona knew, including his own daughter, leaving Johnny's grandchild an orphan. He'll likely be executed for the murders he committed under Satan's influence, and burn in hell for eternity, to which he is actually well on his way at the very end.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: After informing Harry that Winesap met an unfortunate end due to a "nasty accident", Louis / Lucifer jokes that "one less attorney" in the world doesn't really matter, even though there has been nothing to suggest that Winesap is corrupt or evil in any way or knew who his client really was. He just wanted to clean up all the loose ends, denying Harry / Johnny anyone who can corroborate his story.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Private eye Harold Angel finds himself stuck in the middle of a decade-long conflict between Johnny Favourite, a murderous occultist leader who sold his soul to the devil for power, and the Prince of Darkness himself, who feels cheated out of his contract and wants revenge on Favourite.
  • Famous Last Words: By the time Detective Sterne confronts him about Epiphany's grisly murder, Harry / Johnny is resigned to his ultimate fate and when told he'll burn simply says, "I know. In Hell." It would be Gallows Humor, except it's no joke.
  • Fan Disservice: One of the advertised draws of this movie was a naked Lisa Bonet. The actual scene had more to do with squick than fantasy. About half of the sequence is a pretty straightforward sex scene, it's the second half where things get really creepy as blood starts pouring down the walls and shots of violence are shown intermittedly. There's also the revelation later on that Epiphany was really Harold's daughter, further adding to the squickiness.
  • Fanservice:
    • Lisa has a Sexy Soaked Shirt scene.
    • Harry's girlfriend, who appears in one sequence to give him info on Johnny Favorite...which they discuss amid having her undress while sitting in bed with him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Louis at first appears to simply be Affably Evil, but as his manner barely changes even as he becomes increasingly malevolent, he falls into this.
  • The Fifties.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Thankfully, we never see the Groin Attack on Toots. Or Epiphany.
  • Grand Theft Me / Your Soul Is Mine: Turns out that Johnny Favorite did this rather gruesomely to the completely innocent Harry Angel to try and get out of his Deal with the Devil.
  • Groin Attack:
    Harry: How did he die?
    Sterne: Technically? Asphyxiation by his own genitalia.
    Sterne: (angrily) Somebody cut his dick off, stuffed it in his mouth and choked him to death.
    • Epiphany also dies from such an attack, a rare female version that proves equally horrifying. Essentially, she was raped to death with a gun shoved into her vagina and eventually shot through that place. By her own possessed father, no less.
  • Hellevator: At the very end of the film, Harry Angel (aka Johnny Favorite) takes a ride on one of these.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: Harry unwittingly is doing this.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: However, has nothing to do with Satan or Satanism.
  • Humiliation Conga: Harry, the main character, gets the crap kicked out of him in basically every scene. And that's just the beginning of his torture. Subverted in that Harry was killing all of the witnesses while in his Johnny persona.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: Johnny ate Harry's heart while it was still beating. Squick.
  • Identity Denial: "I know who I am!" No, you don't.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Averted. The film takes place in New Orleans during a festival but it's a voodoo festival.
  • The Killer In Me: Harry Angel is Johnny Favorite and committed all the murders himself, albeit under Cyphre's influence.
  • Large Ham: DeNiro is obviously having a wonderful time with the role. At any moment you expect him to giggle. Note that he manages to ham it up without speaking all that loudly; he remains quite soft-spoken and calm throughout the film, but his enjoyment is just streaming from his body language.
  • Leitmotif: The tune to "I Cried For You" keeps haunting Harry. Even Epiphany sings it in the bathtub at one point. That's because it was Johnny Favorite's most popular song. It makes sense Epiphany's mother would sing it to her.
  • Louis Cypher: Satan's appearance is under the pseudonym Louis Cyphre The Trope Namer.
    Harry: "Louis Cyphre". Lucifer. Even your name is a dime store joke.
    • With another lampshade piled on by Louis right after.
    Louis: Mephistopheles is such a mouthful in Manhattan.
  • Male Gaze: Angel watches a nurse's derriere as she walks away.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Aside from the Louis Cyphre pun, Louis' last name is a homonym for cipher, a secret or code.
    • Also, "Harold Angel" puns the song "Hark, the herald angels sing"— as in, "Pay attention, Harry used to be the singer."
    • Johnny Favorite's real name was Jonathan Leibling. Jonathan means "God's gift" and Leibling means "God's favorite".
  • Memory Gambit: Johnny's plan to use Harry Angel's soul was derailed by his shellshock-induced amnesia.
  • Names To Run Away From: Demons Or Angels:
    • Harold "Harry" Angel, the shady private detective. Only by the end do we know how bad he really is: He's really an evil occultist named Johnny Favorite, the very same man he was looking for. He tried to cheat Satan out of the deal he made with him prior to the start of the film, by stealing the identity of the real Harold Angel.
    • Louis Cyphre, who is in fact the real Devil.
  • Moe Greene Special: Dr. Fowler is shot directly through the eye.
  • Neo Noir: One of the few examples of noir crossing over with horror.
  • Nice Guy: Harry's default mode. It turns out to be a mask, as he's actually the most evil person in the film, being a cannibalistic occultist, incestuous rapist and multiple murderer.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Det. Sterne. While he initially comes off as a vile racist, he does care about Epiphany and her orphaned kid. He gives hints about being a Beleaguered Bureaucrat as well.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: This was a movie that managed to make a man biting into a hard boiled egg seem terrifying.
  • Obviously Evil / Card-Carrying Villain: Even when you can't tell who Louis is, the man is delighting in his own evilness.
  • Occult Law Firm: Winesap and MacIntosh. Pun - Both names are types of apples, alluding to the biblical story of the devil manipulating Eve to eat the forbidden apples.
  • Parental Incest: Epiphany has sex with Angel, who is later revealed to be her father.
  • Phallic Weapon: Epiphany is killed by gunshot. The shot in question comes from a gun stuffed into her nether regions. We thankfully don't get to see the murder, only the aftermath.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted with Dr. Fowler. Skull, blood and brain a-plenty on the pillow.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Played with at the end when Cypher/Satan is telling the truth to Harry/Johnny, for a brief shot, his eyes change to yellow, at the point when he says that Harry/Johnny's soul belongs to him.
  • Religious Horror: The film has some really creepy religious elements. It turns out at the end that the entire plot was orchestrated by Satan himself, who hired Johnny Favourite to condemn himself to Hell.
  • Satan: Makes an appearance.
  • Sexy Secretary: Connie again. Obviously, Harry notices.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: It turns out that Harry himself had been hired by the devil to condemn himself to hell.
  • Split Personality: Harry and Johnny, due to a combination of Amnesic Dissonance and Your Soul Is Mine.
  • The Stinger: "Harry?" "Johnny?"
  • Surprise Incest: Harry has sex with Epiphany, who's Johnny's daughter. Turns out, Harry is Johnny.
  • Surreal Horror: Some places in the movie get rather like this, especially the infamous sex scene.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: During the sex scene with Epiphany, "Honeymoon Blues" is on the radio ("Tom, Dick and Harry...") Then La Vern Baker's "Soul on Fire" takes over.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Harold Angel is Johnny Favorite's assumed identity. Literally, since every time he looks in the mirror, he gets strange feelings. This is actually pointed about by Louis.
    That's it Johnny, take a good look! However cleverly you sneak up on the mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye.
  • Twist Ending: Harry Angel is Johnny Favorite. Every time Harry becomes the murderous Johnny, it's indicated by a fan stopping and rotating backwards.
    Harry Angel: "I know who I am!"
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Harry's "thing" with chickens. After knowing the twist ending, it's possible that Harry is afraid of chickens because the blood of a dead chicken was used when Johnny Favorite traded places with him.
  • The Villain Makes the Plot: As per usual for this sort of plot (and indeed most plots,) the story is set into motion by the villain. The only noteworthy thing about this is the villain is actually the protagonist, and he set the plot in motion more than 12 years before the film starts.
  • Villain Protagonist: Since Harry is Johnny, he turns out to be this. He was an occultist who cut out a young man's heart to escape his Deal with the Devil. When he finally takes the elevator ride down to Hell he seems to fully accept his punishment.
  • Visual Pun: In one scene, Cyphre is eating an egg, and salts it. He spills some salt carelessly; Harry, without thinking, picks some up and throws it over his shoulder.
  • X Meets Y: The trailer advertised it as The Exorcist meets Chinatown.

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