Acrophobia or plainly put the fear of heights is something we all experience at some point in life. Some can handle heights much better than others and speaking from experience, heights and I are not dear friends, nor do I try and associate with them. For the adrenaline junkies that push the limit of what a person can withstand physically, more power to them, I can live vicariously through their go pro and drone videos. Fall co-written and directed by Scott Mann uses several different techniques to illicit the intense sensation when experiencing the fear of heights. Anyone with a hint of that well known fear will instantly feel that gut punch once Fall gets to that point of no return.
Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank’s script is full of the same fear we all feel the most comfortable in sharing. Mann’s direction showcases it from the ground up and from the top down. For the emotional response to register, getting those shots to stick to the ribs is what makes Fall a worthwhile watch, however, experiencing it on a big screen would cause the most distress even those more comfortable with heights than others. Regardless, the cinematography by Miguel Olaso does the job in creating an unbearable atmosphere that only people with insane ambition would attempt.
A year after an unfortunate rock-climbing accident that would go on to widow Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) of her husband Dan (Mason Gooding), Becky’s best friend and adrenaline junkie influencer Hunter (Virginia Gardner) decides to force Becky to conquer the 2,000-foot man made structure, the B67 TV tower, facing the fear of losing her husband and moving on with her life. For the majority of the 107-minute runtime, it’s just these two best friends on camera, climbing the impossible structure several painstaking feet at a time, taking video with a drone for the social media likes and once disaster strikes, coming to the realization of never making it down alive.
If the ascension of the 2,000-foot structure doesn’t make the heart skip a beat or make you realize you’re not breathing, it’s the close-up shots of the overly rusted ladder that will do the trick. With each step taken up the various ladders, the chance of survival drops down for the two friends who push the limits and for us as viewers the chance that we will lose our balance while sitting down increases. The environment Mann captures is suffocating – something can go wrong at any turn in the middle of nowhere where this abandoned tv tower stands supported by wires anyone with a little more sense wouldn’t trust.
A word to the wise, though Fall may have you on the edge of your seat, don’t sit toward the edge, you will fall off it. Each frame cranks up the nerve-wracking fear that crashes into you like waves. Toward the second half of the film, it gets easier to adjust to the harrowing heights as the films switches gears to a more melodramatic conflict between Becky and Hunter. Putting the camera close up to the two of them on the tiny platform makes anyone forget about the stomach dropping fall but every chance Mann gets, he’s reminding us of the impending danger of the situation.
For one, there’s no food or water or shelter from the direct sunlight and two, because the girls are in the desert in the middle of nowhere, birds of prey, namely vultures are circling their next meal them waiting for the chance to feast. Any water or was dropped when Hunter attempted to get a phone signal by using the 50 feet of slack. All of the tension and suspense built up with the climb and the subsequent stranded section after the 200 feet of ladder broke off is lost by the second half as Fall loses its sense of verisimilitude.
What starts as a promising survivalist thriller through the close-up shots of the rusted structure to the motivational dialogue that can give anyone the sense of conquering your fears is extinguished when Becky goes to outlandish lengths to survive another day or coming up with another plan to reach out to 911 on earth. All are commendable ideas but with each one, the more ridiculous Fall becomes.
The 2010 film Buried often came to mind during the second half of this film. Every scenario within Buried feels real to the situation the one and only character found himself in. Fall becomes suspended in disbelief the longer Becky and Hunter are stranded on that small ledge. Visually, the effects don’t hold up either. There comes a point where both girls become injured that puts further strain on believability in the survival mode the girls enter when realizing their efforts of making contact have failed.
Both Virginia and Grace do exceptional with their death-defying performances making the worry for their characters safety pop off the screen. Where the script fails comes from the setup of the relationship between Becky and Dan. The theatrics of it all makes up for the character development and execution of the final act.
Overall, Fall comes up short of providing an unforgettable survivalist experience. Mann has total control going into and during the climbing sections making each step up more uncomfortable than the last one. The true highlight of the film comes by way of the experienced fear from the tightly framed cinematography and the score that heightens the distress further. For a quick thriller, Fall overstays its welcome by a couple of minutes. It’s in the final act that the once believable adrenaline fueled trek unravels.
Screenplay By: Scott Mann & Jonathan Frank
Directed By: Scott Mann
Music By: Tim Despic
Cinematography: Miguel Olaso
Starring: Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Release Date: August 12, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 47 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%