Starring Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
For those afraid of heights, “Fall” might be one of the scariest films you’ll ever see. The sweaty palm-inducing thriller opens up with three friends on an intense vertical climb. The filmmakers waste no time putting the viewer on the wall with the characters, showing some impressive aerial and drone camera work.
The prologue for this story is standard stuff, dangerous rock climbing in the middle of nowhere. The rest of the film takes a wildly different turn. Director Scott Mann uses horror movie tricks to ramp up the fear, even with no bad guys chasing girls or haunted farmhouses. But unnecessary jump scares and gory nightmares pack the running time when less would have been so much more. Blending visual effects with aerial footage is very effective here, although not on the level of another high-altitude flick, “The Aeronauts.”
Desperate times call for desperate adventures. Hunter (Virginia Gardner), a YouTube personality, makes a living climbing dangerous structures for views and clicks. Her best friends Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Dan (Mason Gooding) accompanied her when tragedy struck a year ago. Becky struggles to move forward with her life, wallowing in substance abuse and self-loathing. Hunter shows up, daring her to join in a 2,000-foot radio tower climb. What should have been a quick and steady death-defying climb straight up the rusty old structure turns into a nightmare scenario. “If you’re scared of dying, don’t be afraid to live,” is the motto thrown around by the seemingly fearless girls.
...“Fall” explores every realistic element associated with climbing and heights. The audience isn’t required to suspend belief very much to accept the plot; it’s what makes this film so exciting.
The two actors, Currey and Gardner, provide girl power and raw energy in their performances, which are physically demanding even on a sound stage. One timid, the other fearless, both will be called stupid by viewers for the situation they put themselves in. “Fall” delivers the message of seeking adventure while simultaneously warning about reckless behavior, especially in the age of social media. The film has a praise-worthy beginning and seems to reserve all its faults until the final act. Sound editing stands out most of all. Jingling loose bolts and rusted handle cutaways provide add-on terror with each step.
We’ve all had experiences with heights, whether an exhilarating feeling or one that renders our body motionless. In the first two acts, “Fall” explores every realistic element associated with climbing and heights. The audience isn’t required to suspend belief very much to accept the plot; it’s what makes this film so exciting.
Unfortunately, the screenplay betrays the focus on realism in the third act. It’s a taut thriller for 90 minutes, but after that the film throws everything on the ground, relying on sloppy antics to introduce blood and gore. “Fall’s” most significant offense would be a spoiler to dissect here — but the plot device the director overuses at the end voids much of what the film has built.
“Fall” builds tension, anxiety, and suspense with height and horror, only to throw it all away on the ridiculously sloppy last act.