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Film / Fallen

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"Remember this, Hobbes... what goes around, really goes around."

Fallen is a 1998 thriller film directed by Gregory Hoblit, starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, and James Gandolfini.

In Philadelphia, police detective John Hobbes (Washington) gains notoriety for capturing wily serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas). 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 2006 miniseries starring Paul Wesley and Bryan Cranston, or the 2016 film starring Addison Timlin and Jeremy Irvine. Nor should it be confused with the Evanescence album.

This movie depends on a major Twist Ending. Proceed with caution.


  • Alone with the Psycho: During the final scene, Stanton and Jonesy have came to arrest Hobbes, and it's pretty obvious that one of them is possessed and ready to kill Hobbes and the other, but neither Hobbes, nor the audience can be sure which, as neither man is acting out of character yet.
  • Artistic License: Syrian Aramaic (more commonly known as Syriac) is claimed here to be a nearly dead language spoken now by only a few isolated nomadic tribes. It's actually still fairly widely spoken in the Middle East, albeit a minority language, mostly by Christians (many of whom use it as a liturgical language). So when the linguists says he'd never expected to hear anyone actually speak it, this is way off.
  • 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 one of his co-workers Azazel is possessing, it turns out to be his likable partner Jonesy instead of his aloof, Jerkass superior officer Stanton.
  • 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..."
  • Body Surf: Azazel hops into various people in a police station one after the other, while singing "Time is on my side" to mess around with Hobbes.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How a possessed Jonesy kills Stanton. Hobbes later kills him the same way.
  • 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 led 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.
  • Christianity is Catholic: The theologian and demonoligist Hobbes consults is Catholic. When he's trying to find out what the meaning of "Apocalypse" is (he could look it up easily) he asks a nun. Hobbes mentions that he goes to church occasionally, but not what denomination. Catholicism is the only sect brought up in the movie.
  • Clear My Name
  • Cluster F-Bomb: When Azazel realizes he was outfoxed by Hobbes, he starts dropping every f-word variant around.
  • Cool Uncle: Hobbes is this for his nephew Sam.
  • Creepy Child: Azazel possesses children without changing his mannerisms at all. The effect is fairly disturbing.
  • Criminal Mind Games: They are Azazel's favorite kind of game. Even before Reese was executed and he got loose, there's mention of how he used to call John at odd hours of the night, something he continues to do after Reese's death, which is only the start of John's troubles.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: At the end of the film, Hobbes sacrifices his life to destroy the villain. The villain escapes at the last minute; this was foreshadowed in the opening of the movie. Not to mention that Hobbes' reputation is completely destroyed-he'll be remembered as a psychotic cop killer who murdered his own friend. It's also implied heavily that Azazel will spend the rest of his nephew's life hunting him in order to visit the same fate upon him. The only hope spot for Hobbes is that if the bodies are examined, they may discover that Stanton was killed from a bullet from Jonesy's gun, rather than Hobbes. But even that isn't enough to entirely clear his name.
  • Cyanide Pill: Or rather, poisoned cigarettes.
  • Da Chief: Stanton, who is initially a friend and supporter of Hobbes, before coming to believe that he's a Serial Killer.
  • Dark Secret: Subverted. Stanton treats Milano’s suicide and the circumstances around it as if they were this, despite the fact it had already been exposed.
  • 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.
  • Devil, but No God: There is a demon essentially free to take over people's bodies and use them to commit murder. Apparently, the forces of Heaven are not concerned enough to show up and do something about it. There are some Catholic demonologists mentioned to fight the demons, but we never see this and the one who is shown in the film only gives the protagonist information on them.
  • 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, Reese gives one to a mildly unsettled Hobbes. In Syrian Aramaic.
    Reese/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.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Azazel (in Reese's body) being a smug Troll and happily singing on his way to be executed.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Lou recognizes Shepowsky's name.
  • Fair Cop: Denzel Washington as Detective John Hobbes.
  • Fallen Angel: Azazel.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Azazel, again! He talks to Hobbes like they're good friends, but drops the act when he takes too long to possess.
  • Foreshadowing: One scene partway through the film shows Azazel possessing a cat, meaning that humans aren't the only way he can survive. He does the same in the end to another cat in order to escape death.
  • 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.
  • Freaky Friday Sabotage: Hobbes attempts this to Azazel by poisoning himself them tricking the demon into taking his body. It fails.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: It's not hard to despise Azazel given he's a sociopathic demon Serial Killer who possesses innocent people in order to force them to commit gruesome murders and destroy their reputations For the Evulz. After forcing Hobbes' brother Art to kill himself and possessing the friendly and good-hearted Jonesy you really want to see him gone for good.
  • 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. He speculates this was what Milano wanted to do too.
  • 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.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: 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 or 268 meters), if suddenly loosed from his last host. Using this woman, Azazel then smears Hobbes, saying he killed the last host without provocation. The media buys it, since the man's gun only had blanks in it, plus he had no reason for committing Suicide by Cop. And Hobbes can't explain his main reason for shooting—freaking demonic possession—without looking crazy, so he gets suspended, removing him from hunting down the demon.
  • 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".
  • Jerkass: Lieutenant Stanton gets in the way of Hobbes’ investigation repeatedly because of a Dark Secret that doesn’t matter anymore and has already been exposed, and believes Hobbes is the new killer out of obviously planted evidence even before Azazel makes it look like Hobbes killed a man in cold blood.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Possibly Stanton in the climax, where, while remaining firm in arresting Hobbes, he does claim that if he is exonerated, then he'll be happy with that outcome.
  • Karma Houdini: Azazel goes out of his way to kill innocents to torture Hobbes. After Hobbes finds a way to kill Azazel via noble sacrifice, Azazel escapes in the body of a cat.
  • Kill the Host Body: Hobbes' final, desperate plan to stop the demon Azazel is to lure his current host out to a remote location, then killing Azazel's body and then himself to deny him a new body, since Azazel can't survive for long without one. However, it turns out that he can possess animals as well and escapes in a nearby cat.
  • Large Ham: Azazel, especially when possessing Reese and, later, Jonesy.
  • Laughably Evil: Azazel, depending on the host, but especially when he is possessing Reese and Jonesy.
  • Manly Tears: Hobbes after his brother's death.
  • Missing Mom: There's no explanation of where Sam's mom is. He just lives with his dad, who's implied to be mildly mentally challenged (perhaps Sam's mom left him before the film's events?), and Uncle John.
  • Mobstacle Course: Inverted and Played for Horror: one Chase Scene involves Gretta trying to run away from Azazel, who exploits the crowd they are in to transfer himself from body to body as he tries to catch up.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Edgar Reese's 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.
  • Nice Guy: Jonesy, Hobbes' partner played by John Goodman, is genuine friendly and compassionate and the only one who takes Hobbes' side when he's framed by Azazel. The fact that Hobbes is forced to kill him after he gets possessed by Azazel makes it even more heartbreaking.
  • 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.
  • Novelization: By Dewey Gram.
  • The Nth Doctor: Azazel's hosts.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Stanton.
  • One of the Kids: Innocent, childish Art, who is implied to be mentally disabled.
  • 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 killed himself 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Azazel, while possessing Jonesy, calls Hobbes a stupid monkey.
  • 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. Except for Stanton.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Jonesy and Stanton. in the final scene no less.
  • Self-Poisoning Gambit: How Hobbes plans to destroy Azazel. He lures it out to a remote location, shoots the body it's in so that it dies slowly, and poisons himself with dosed cigarettes. Because of the location, the demon won't have a new body to possess and will be destroyed. Unfortunately, it's not limited to possessing humans.
  • 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.
  • The Sociopath: Azazel. He views human beings as nothing but toys to play with and hs entire purpose in life seems to be just possessing people, ruining their lives and leaving them to die in misery.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "Why is there a space between Lyons and Shipowsky?" Which provides an early clue to Azazel's origins and Body Surf nature.
  • 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.
  • Suicide by Cop: Referenced during the aftermath of the Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence scene above. Hobbes suggests that the man pointed a gun at him, loaded with blanks, specifically because he wanted to die. The other cops rule this out, because the man's psychological profile had none of the suicide warning signs.
  • Tainted Tobacco: Det. Hobbes commits suicide by lighting up a poisoned cigarette: allowing to kill himself in front of Azazel without the other being aware of what he is doing.
  • 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?
  • Tuneless Song of Madness: Azazel playfully sings the song "Time Is On My Side" by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to highlight his own insanity, Smug Super status, and utter confidence he'll never be killed or stopped.
  • Video Wills: A camera crew records Edgar Reese before his execution. At one point in the footage, Reeves addresses Hobbes (who is watching it days after Reese's execution) directly.
  • Villain-Possessed Bystander: This is the MO of Azazel. He possesses people through physical contact and has complete control of them until he moves on to a different host. Most of the people he uses as criminals and murderers were completely innocent people before he got to them, and after he leaves they don't remember anything from the possession, leaving them utterly confused. At one point Azazel possesses a man and pulls a gun on Denzel Washington's protagonist and threatens to shoot. He kills the man in self-defence, only for Azazel to simply jump to a new host as the man dies and walk off scot-free while Washington has to deal with shooting a schoolteacher who never did anything illegal in his life. At the end of the movie Washington has lured Azazel to a remote mountain cabin and kills all of his hosts and himself, knowing that after death Azazel has limited time to find a new host. But Azazel finds a cat to possess and smugly heads back to civilization, all the death and tragedy to stop him having been for nothing.
  • 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?!
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Or rather, what measure is a meat suit, as, with some regret, Hobbes is willing to kill one of his closest friends to rob Azazel of a host and hopefully kill him.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Azazel once killed some Arabic children by injecting poison into their veins while possessing Reese. Once he possess Jonesy he claims to Hobbes he might visit his nephew Sam. Whatever his intention is it mustn't be any good.
  • Wrongly Accused: Azazel frames Hobbes (and in the past, Gretta's father) for his own crimes, and tricks him into killing his host in broad daylight to get him charged with murder.