Fall - FrightFest World Premiere Review
Director: Scott Mann
Starring: Grace Fulton, Virginia Gardner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Written by: Jonathan Frank, Scott Mann
Produced by: David Haring, James Harris, Mark Lane, Scott Mann, Christian Mercuri
Cinematography by: MacGregor
Original Score by: Tim Despic
A year after a tragic accident best friends Becky and Hunter decide to scale the famous B67 TV Tower as a way of confronting their fears but they're soon left stranded 2,000 feet in the air kicking into action their fight for survival.
Acrophobia (a fear of heights) is one of the most common fears to exist. Be it a foot or 20,000 feet off the ground it is said that 1 in 3 people experience this phobia at some point in their lives. It mainly stems from a fear that a fall could risk serious injury yet it doesn't stop the thrill seekers of the world to laugh in the face of it through skydiving, rock climbing or in the case of ‘Fall’ scaling an old 20,000 foot TV tower.
The film opens with a set piece akin to the start of ‘Cliffhanger’ where husband and wife (Dan and Becky played by Mason Gooding and Grace Fulton respectively) along with their friend Hunter (played by Virginia Gardner) are making their way up a cliff face with only a single rope as a safety support. The grand opening shot of the cliff face puts their climb into perspective as it slowly zooms in on the couple who exchange pleasantries. Tragedy strikes and Dan falls to his death (amidst some ropey visual effects) devastating Becky.
Picking up a year later and we now find Becky drowning her sorrows at a bar and sending voicemails to Dan's phone to hear his voice again. In the aftermath of the accident she has not only hurt herself by wallowing in grief but she has pushed away those closest to her in life, particularly her father James (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a welcome cameo). As Becky, Grace Fulton does a fine job as a woman overcoming her fear and grief with a performance that grows in strength as the film progresses. Her physical prowess as she climbs and fights for survival is a reflection of her character's inner strength with Fulton always expressing this in the right amount.
At her lowest her friend Hunter shows up offering her the prospect of climbing the B67 TV Tower. A 20,000 foot high structure which towers above a nearby desert town and is one of the largest structures in the country. It is a fresh challenge for Hunter in her pursuit of clout on social media but she wants her closest friend to join her to help her move on with her life. After offering a vague explanation on how the experience will be cathartic Becky agrees to join her. Virginia Gardner is also quite good in the role of Hunter in a performance full of energy but also maturity in the face of the situation she eventually gets placed in.
From the very beginning ‘Fall’ never claims to be a smart film, in fact if you stop to think about it not a lot of it makes much sense. The characters embark on this climb with minimal supplies, a lack of safety support and they don't tell anyone about their little adventure. Almost at every turn the film itself is warning the ladies not to make the climb with several ominous warnings (like a near miss with a truck) and foreshadowing (with a vulture feeding on a near dead animal). Their ignorance of these warnings would be easy to pass this off as a by-product of their naivety and arrogance but even that is a stretch to all matters of logic. Ultimately the film knows all of this and asks the audience to be patient with it as it is a means to an end to get to the adrenaline rush ride at the centre of the film.
What a centrepiece the tower is. A "stomach churning massive" structure (as Becky aptly puts it), the very sight of it is more than enough to make you nauseous as it stretches high into the sky. As the ladies begin to climb it you may find your heart rate increases to alarming levels as your anxiety rises in proportion to how high they've climbed. The manner in which these scenes are shot focusing on the breath-taking size of the tower through wide shots that cuts the top of the tower out of the frame at times gives the film a real sense of scale and scope which is a credit to the work of cinematographer Macgregor. Whilst the visual effects may not have been too strong at the beginning of the film, they shine here making everything believable to a dizzying effect.
It is not just these wide shots that puts nerves on edge. Throughout the climb there are a number of sharply cut close ups of loose bolts and damaged rungs on the ladder coupled with the groans of the rusted structure as it catches the wind making this particular scene one of the most intense you are likely to see this year. It almost feels like director Scott Mann is grabbing the audience by the throat and dangling them from the top of the structure as he is firing on all cylinders seamlessly tying all of these aspects of the film together.
When the ladder falls away under the weight of Becky who almost falls to her death, Hunter manages to pull her up to safety but the two are now stranded. This kicks the film into another gear as they try to figure out how to get back down to the ground. This is the point where films like this stand or fall but Scott Mann and Jonathan Frank's script gets a lot of mileage out of the ladies' predicament. The audience is placed firmly in their shoes as they try and figure things out alongside the characters. Whilst this aspect of their script really works, unfortunately the dialogue isn't as strong as some of it feels contrived and contains a fairly predictable revelation about one of the characters. The emotional core established at the beginning feels a bit half baked making it initially hard to care too much about the characters but as the film progresses and the more hopeless their situation becomes the more you start to genuinely care for them.
‘Fall’ is truly an immersive experience that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible but fair warning, you may find yourself pacing nervously around the room at times which is part of its appeal. Yes the motivations and actions of the main character's decision to scale the structure doesn't make much sense but it is a means to an end to allow the palm sweating spectacle to ensue. Whilst there is not much to cling onto with the main characters, the peril of their situation and the chemistry between Grace Fulton and Virginia Gardner allows ‘Fall’ to rise above many other films with similar setups. By the end of the film you may or may not be left exhausted depending on how willing you are to give yourself to the film but one thing is for sure, you'll be keeping your feet firmly on the ground for the foreseeable future.
- Joseph McElroy
'Fall' received its European Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 29th. Signature Entertainment presents 'Fall' exclusively in Cinemas from September 2nd