I am a man of multitudes. I love roller coasters and various other thrill rides, and the higher off the ground, the more excited I become. I also love flying and am glued to my window from the second we take off to the second we land as I enjoy the larger-than-life views a plane at 35,000 feet can offer me. On the other hand, I had a panic attack at the top of the Eiffel Tower because too many damn tourists were sticking their phones through the fencing to get photos. I exist in both planes of existence, because the inclusion of a seatbelt makes all the difference in whether or not my acrophobia decides to show its face. I also had a reaction of multitudes to the trailer for Fall, as one side of me recoiled at the idea of a film preying upon said phobia so intensely, but the other knew it’s the same producers behind 47 Meters Down, so I had reason to believe it probably wouldn’t do said thing successfully. Still, I believe there is a place for B-horror within the screens of our local multiplexes, and with the recent release of Hulu’s Prey, a film practically begging for the big screen but denied by The Big Mouse, I relish any opportunity to watch something like Fall as a theatrical release.
I just…wish that Fall was even mindlessly entertaining.
A year after her husband (Mason Gooding) dies in a freak climbing accident, thrill-seeker Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) is struggling to return to normalcy. Her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), concerned for her well-being, contacts her best friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner), to help her get out of her funk. Looking to rekindle her love of climbing and thrill-seeking, Hunter takes Becky on a trip to climb the B-67 TV Tower, a 2,000-foot-tall television antenna in the middle of the desert. While all goes well at first, the girls are plunged into peril when the rusty ladder at the top of the tower collapses and they find themselves trapped atop the antenna with no means of escape. Using the limited resources they have, they attempt to obtain rescue before time runs out.
There’s a certain irony that Fall is produced by the same people behind 47 Meters Down, because Fall has almost, if not the exact same plot structure as 47 Meters Down, down to the eventual twists and turns the narrative takes. It’s almost admirable how little it tries to differentiate itself from that already uninspired gimmick thriller by turning it into another, only slightly different, gimmick thriller.
Like said gimmick thrillers, Fall tries its damnedest to market itself to the most susceptible audience to these types of films: teenagers. I was shocked to find out that Fall actually used vocal deepfake technology to dub out over 30 usages of the word “fuck” from the film’s original cut (perhaps the most terrifying aspect to this whole film) to achieve a PG-13 rating, if only because this screenplay seems to be written specifically for those unable to get into an R-rated film without their parents. The issue with this, like many films made for the young folks of each generation, is that the film is written by 40-year-old men who have literally zero idea how young people speak, interact, or even live without it immediately coming across as condescending and infantilizing. Fall, despite only having two main characters, tries its hardest to paint both of them as either overly-emotional, frustratingly self-absorbed, or both at once.
Then we get to the part that stops Fall directly in its tracks: it’s just not thrilling. Only hurt further by its frustratingly one-dimensional characters and cringey dialogue, Fall just can’t stop tripping over its own feet and utilize the power of acrophobia to create anything remotely engaging. It’s painfully obvious that nearly every shot was on a single soundstage with copious amounts of green screen to fill in the vistas of being 2,000 feet above a desert. To mask these obvious budgetary constraints, barely any of the film’s cinematography actually utilizes any techniques to give the audience the sense of cinematic vertigo that we would want from the concept alone. For a film that so clearly wants to tap into an audience’s acrophobia, it fails to trigger said phobia more than a few times throughout its bloated runtime.
And bloated it is. For a film so insistent on taking place in a singular location, there are a lot of scenes of genuinely nothing happening, padding out its 107-minute runtime into a genuine slog that only features a few even moderately memorable sequences. Then, to add insult to injury, Fall lacks a proper ending to actually justify being with these characters for so damn long at the top of this tower. The film doesn’t end as much as it just…calls it a day. It ceases.
I don’t like films that think that the audience watching it is stupid, because even in stupid films, don’t act like you’re somehow in on it as a writer but we as viewers aren’t. This sort of attitude behind nearly every aspect of Fall irritates me more than anything, and its attempts at being “relatable” or “modern” just end up feeling like a parent jiggling their keys in front of a baby’s face to get them to stop crying in public. And yet, somehow, I’d be willing to look past those things if this stupid film actually fulfilled its promise of activating my fight-or-flight when it comes to heights, but it does nothing of the sort. Instead, we’re left with a film that simply lazily cannibalizes the plot of another terrible gimmick thriller with hardly any changes, including its quality, and all we’re stuck with is a film with made-for-TV production values, embarrassingly out-of-touch dialogue, and a genuine lack of understanding as to why a concept like this is so scary to so many people, including myself, on paper. I’d say it’s comparable to truly being trapped at the top of a television antenna in regards to how fun it is, but that situation would actually be scary for me, which in turn gives Fall a little too much credit.
In theaters August 12th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Fall webpage.
Final Score: 1 out of 5.