FALL

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Scott Mann

Stars: Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mason Gooding.

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With its vertiginous camera work, the small budget thriller Fall is ultimately scarier and more terrifying than most recent horror movies. 

When the film opens Becky Connor (Grace Caroline Currey, from Shazam!, etc), her husband Dan (Mason Gooding) and her best friend Shiloh Hunter (Virginia Gardner, from the 2018 remake of Halloween, etc) are seen “free climbing” a steep cliff face. But then tragedy occurs and Dan falls to his death, leaving Becky emotionally shattered. In the twelve months since the accident she has since basically withdrawn from the world, hiding away with her self-destructive addiction to pills and alcohol. She has resisted all efforts of her friends and family, in particular her worried father, to try and draw her out. Then Shiloh shows up on her doorstep with a challenge, hoping to snap her out of her depression and confront her demons.  

Shiloh operates her own YouTube channel in which she documents her reckless acts and broadcasts them to her legion of followers. She wants to climb to the top of B67, a decommissioned television tower in the middle of the Mojave desert. At 2000 feet it is supposedly the fourth tallest structure in the US. Becky proposes to spread the ashes of her late husband from the top of the tower. 

But once the two girls reach the stop of the tower they find themselves stranded. The rickety and rusty old ladder they climbed has collapsed. There is no cell phone reception. The battery in Hunter’s drone has died. Hungry vultures are circling. With no way down or anyway of calling for help it becomes a struggle for survival for the two as they perch precariously on the narrow ledge at the top of the tower. The girls have to rely on their wits and experience as they try to overcome a series of daunting obstacles. 

It’s a fairly simple premise for a film, but British director Scott Mann (Heist, etc) and his regular co-writer Jonathan Frank wring every ounce of suspense and tension out of the scenario, although they do telegraph some of their punches. Mann is aided immeasurably by the inventive camerawork of Spanish cinematographer Miguel Olaso (who goes by the pseudonym MacGregor) who gives us vertiginous angles, overhead drone footage that adds to that sense of dread, and he makes the most of the harsh beauty of this remote location. The visuals are aided with some CGI and green screen effects that are seamlessly incorporated into the material. The aerial shots are at times quite unnerving, but they effectively heighten the suspense and the sense of isolation.  

As with adrenaline charged films like The Shallows, etc, Fall is essentially a two hander for most of its running time, and both Currey and Gardiner deliver effective performances thagt capture their characters’ fears, desperation, and camaraderie and they play off each other nicely creating a credible dynamic. Jeffery Dean Morgan (from The Walking Dead, etc) contributes a small but important role as Becky’s concerned father. 

Fall is a taut and tense thriller that manages to hold our attention for most of its running time but is let down towards the end by some lazy and cliched plot elements, that include a late revelation that creates some extra tension between the two women.  

If films like the Oscar winning 2018 documentary Free Solo tested your head for heights and had you tightly clutching the armrests of your cinema seat, then Fall will certainly do much the same. With lots of vertiginous shots and some superb scenery, Fall is a genuinely terrifying and nail-biting thriller that deserves to be seen on the big screen in order to vicariously experience the spectacle and effect best. 

★★★☆

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