"Remember this, Hobbes... what goes around, really goes around."
Police detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington
), gains notoriety for capturing wily serial killer Edgar Reese. Immediately after Reese is executed, Hobbes is plunged into the case of another murderer who seems to be copycatting Reese with scary attention to detail.
However Hobbes's investigation soon leads him to discover that this is no mere copycat, as somehow Reese, or at least the evil that was inside him, has managed to survive the execution. Worse still, the demon is able to jump from one host to another, allowing it to kill at will and to terrorize Hobbes himself.
As the battle of wits
between good and evil becomes increasingly personal for Hobbes, he must turn to a theologian's theories on demonology as his only hope for defeating this ancient evil.
Not to be confused with the Miniseries starring Paul Wesley and Bryan CranstonThis movie depends on a major Twist Ending. Proceed with caution.
- Backstory: The novel gives one to pretty much all the characters, including Hobbes and Jonesy, as well as providing more explanation on things, such as the details of the crimes Reese got arrested for.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Hobbes's only victories were that he prevented Azazel from killing his nephew and that he helped Gretta uncover some info that her allies could use in future battles with the demons. Outside of that, Azazel did exactly what he claimed he would do at the beginning of the movie. Though scaring the hell out of an immortal demon should count as at least a partial victory.
- Beware the Nice Ones: When Hobbes has to figure out which his co-workers Azazel is possessing, it turns out to be his likable partner Jonsey instead of his aloof, Jerk Ass superior officer.
- Brick Joke: A particularly dark example: "Forgot something, didn't you? At the beginning, I said I'd tell you about the time I almost died..."
- The Cape: Hobbes, so much so that Azazel can't possess him by touch and gets fixated on destroying him as thoroughly as possible as a result.
- Children Are Innocent: Sam, who is a sweet, trusting kid with a lot of affection for his dad and Uncle John. When he is lead out of his house in a frenzied chase scene and confronted with news of his father's death, he quietly says that he's going to go back to sleep and that everything will be normal again when he wakes up.
- Clear My Name
- Creepy Child: Azazel possesses children without changing his mannerisms at all. The effect is fairly disturbing.
- Criminal Mind Games: Are Azazel's favorite kind of game. Even before Reese got killed and he got loose, there's mention of how he used to call John at odd hours of the night from prison, something he continues to do after Reese's death, which is only the start of John's troubles.
- Cyanide Pill: Or rather, poisoned cigarettes.
- Demonic Possession: The whole plot. Although not stated, it may be implied that believers can resist demonic possession (at least in most cases). It's said that strong-willed minds can resist demonic possession by touch, but not where the demon is loosed from their last host and within "five hundred cubits," or about a sixth of a mile.
- Downer Ending: "Forgot something, didn't you?"
- Driven to Suicide:
- Robert Milano (Gretta's father) is said to have killed himself at his remote cabin after accepting that he couldn't beat the charges and Azazel was going to win.
- Under similar pressure, and with the addition of his brother's death as a Despair Event Horizon, John Hobbes follows in his footsteps, but with the minor alteration of trying to take Azazel down with him.
- Dying Curse: Before his jaunt to the gas chamber, Reeves gives one to a mildly unsettled Hobbes. In Syrian-Aramic.
Reeves/Azazel: I can't get inside you by touch, but even when I can, when I'm spirit, I won't. No. Better I get you for real. I'll fuck you up, down, left, right, coming, going. I'll get so close to you, so close it breaks you. And if that doesn't work, I have other ways. I have so many, many ways.
- The End of the World as We Know It: AKA the "Fall of Babylon", stated to be the goal of all demons. By possessing humans they further evil in the world and get closer to it.
- Enfant Terrible: The expected result of sticking a vindictive, sadistic demon inside a kid.
- Fair Cop: Denzel Washington as Detective John Hobbes.
- Fallen Angel
- Faux Affably Evil: Azazel, again!
- For the Evulz: What Azazel does to Hobbes is simply for fiendish sadism.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Azazel is revealed to be the narrator of the story. Just before the movie ends, he tells the audience "See you around," and then we get an image of many people in New York walking in the streets, implying that Azazel is out there somewhere in our world again and has kept on possessing human beings.
- Gender Bender: Azazel has zero issues with possessing females and will take over them just as readily as he will men. It makes sense that, as a (fallen) angel who existed as spirit before he was forced to start using hosts, he would have no concern about the sex of the body he's inside or any societal constructs about it and gender. "He" might not even be male — at least, not in the way humans think of gender. He never identifies himself as male or female.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: We never see Azazel's true form except the human host he possesses, though it may not even be visible to humans otherwise.
- The Hero Dies: Hobbes himself at the end.
- Heroic Suicide: Realizing that Azazel will never stop tormenting him and that the demon will target Gretta and Sam next, Hobbes plots to lure Azazel to the remote cabin Milano killed himself at, then poison himself and trick Azazel into his dying body so that the demon will die, too, without any other host in the area. Although he does succeed in setting all aspects of his plan into motion, and dies thinking it worked, Azazel manages to survive by finding a cat to possess.
- How We Got Here: "I wanna tell you about the time I almost died.... "
- Impending Doom P.O.V.: Azazel's yellow-washed P.O.V. as a spirit.
- Implied Love Interest: John and Gretta in the movie, mainly owing to the fact they are each other's only true confidants about what's really going on, John is protective of Gretta, and Gretta is willing to help John quite a bit. When confronting Gretta alone, Azazel notes, "You're not just Hobbes's chippy, are you?", which implies that he, at least, read something going on between them. They got Promoted to Love Interest in the novel.
- Inspector Javert: Lietutenant Stanton ends up becoming this when the evidence starts stacking up against Hobbes.
- Ironic Echo: Hobbes throws Azazel's taunts right back in his face at the end of the movie, from "Open your eyes, look around sometimes," to smoking cigarettes laced with the poison he killed Hobbes' brother with, to singing "Time is on My Side".
- Kill 'em All: By the end of the film, Art, Jonesy, Stanton, and Hobbes himself are all dead.
- Large Ham: Azazel, especially when possessing Reese and, later, Jonesy.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: Edgar Reeves' execution. It launches the whole damn movie!
- Narrator All Along: Azazel, the demon possessing everyone, is actually the one talking and this is revealed at the end. He's using Hobbes' voice because this is the last human we see possessed.
- Nigh Invulnerable: Azazel is a body-possession spirit, so attacking him directly will only kill the host. Hobbes figures out that he can be destroyed if there are no more humans in the vicinity for Azazel to possess if his current host wears out. What Hobbes didn't know is that Azazel can possess animals as well, and quickly takes over a cat at the end to escape.
- The Nth Doctor: Azazel's hosts.
- One of the Kids: Innocent, childish Art, who is implied to be mentally handicapped.
- Out-Gambitted: At the end, Hobbes lures two fellow cops, of which one is possessed by Azazel, into the woods to a secluded cabin. When the demon-possessed cop kills the other man, Hobbes shoots him, but Azazel is going to possess him next. Hobbes is smoking, and reveals his cigarettes are laced with cyanide. Since the demon is only destroyed if there are no hosts left to possess-which he can do even to normally resistant strong-willed people within about 880 feet-the Xanatos Gambit appears to pay off, Azazel will have no place to go except in his dying body. However, the narrator is revealed to be Azazel himself, who reflects how at first he believed himself to be Out-Gambitted, but chuckles on seeing a cat near the cabin, saying "Ah, ah, you forgot something, didn't you? See you around, Hobbes." Crowd scenes are then shown, with the implication that Azazel possessed the cat, got it near someone else and hopped bodies from there, going free. Earlier, another cop had committed suicide at the cabin, implying his attempt to pull off the same Xanatos Gambit to similar results. The Rolling Stones' hit Sympathy For The Devil plays over the credits.
- Promoted to Love Interest: The novelization adds in a romantic subplot between John and Gretta that wasn't in the movie.
- Promotion to Parent:
- Hobbes takes care of his brother, Art, and his nephew, Sam.
- Gretta becomes newly orphaned Sam's caretaker when they go on the run.
- Reasonable Authority Figures: A whole police station full of 'em.
- Salt and Pepper: Hobbes and Jonesy.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Hobbes commits one in the end, having not known that demons can possess ANIMALS as well as humans.
- Serial Killer: Something of a theme for the director, seeing as how he also helmed Frequency and Untraceable.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The movie ends with Azazel himself making it out alive in a cat by Hobbes' cabin, and the protagonist himself dead in the end, after a failed attempt of Taking You with Me.
- Smug Snake: Azazel views Hobbes as more of a fun diversion than an actual threat, and seems to think that he's free to antagonize Hobbes as much as he wants because there's no way Hobbes would figure out what's going on, much less learn his weakness. He later realizes just how wrong he was when Hobbes almost kills him at the end.
- Soundtrack Dissonance:
- You'll never hear "Time Is On My Side" quite the same way again.
- A less-noticeable example is the cheerful Wario Land music playing in the background right as Hobbes realizes what's happened to his brother.
- Spanner in the Works: A cat. Implied to have done it multiple times.
- Stalker Without a Crush: Azazel to Hobbes.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Art winds up murdered in his bed for his brother, John, to find in the morning.
- Suicide by Cop: With a twist. Azazel possesses a random man on the street, who steals the gun hidden nearby and draws down on Hobbes, who is forced into killing him. The demon then possesses a nearby woman, explaining he can possess anyone within 500 cubits, or about a sixth of a mile (880 feet), if suddenly loosed from his last host. Using this woman Azazel then smears Hobbes, saying he killed the last host without provocation, and the man had no reason to commit suicide by cop, plus the gun only had blanks in it, so the media buys it. Hobbes thus gets suspended, removing him from hunting down the demon.
- Taking You with Me: A tried-and-failed attempt.
- Terms of Endangerment: Azazel faux-affectionately calls Hobbes "pal" multiple times.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth:
- Poor, innocent Art fell victim to a world where demons existed and decided to kill him to get to his brother.
- Hobbes is a literal case, as Azazel targets him specifically for his moral strength.
- Trauma Conga Line: Poor Hobbes: his whole life is systematically dismantled by Azazel. Apparently, this is what the demon likes to do to people who are particularly good, as he's been implied to have done it before, repeatedly.
Hobbes: You leave my family alone.
Azazel: But I'm still having fun! Aren't you still having fun?
- Video Wills: A camera crew records Edgar Reeves before his execution. At one point in the footage, Reeves addresses Hobbes (who is watching it days after Reeves' death) directly.
- Villainous Breakdown: When he learns that Hobbes has trapped him to die, Azazel throws a pleasingly cathartic one when he starts cussing Hobbes out like a mad twelve-year-old and crawling around to find a new person to possess before his spirit dies.
Azazel: Can you imagine what it feels like to be alive for thousands of years, and then realize you're actually going to die, 'cause some self-righteous cop decided that he was going to save the fucking world?!
- Wrongly Accused: Azazel frames Hobbes (and in the past, Gretta's father) for his own crimes, and tricks him into killing his own host in broad daylight to get him charged with murder.