Lean Thriller Fall Deserves High Praise at 2000 Feet Up

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Lean Thriller <i>Fall</i> Deserves High Praise at 2000 Feet Up

You don’t go into a movie like Fall looking for Oscar bait. You go into a movie like Fall to have some serious fun. While it isn’t exactly the most profound or deep movie, even in the moments it wants to be, it’s hard to deny that it’s an exciting ride. The set-up alone prepares you for that, but the directorial and cinematography follow-through really doubles down on creating an enticing and at times dizzying experience for its audience to remember. For what it is, Fall is an excellent white-knuckle affair of the highest order, and it succeeds in what it sets out to do: Keep you locked in for an hour and 45 minutes with thrills, terror and suspense.

Fall follows Becky (Grace Caroline Currey), a climber married to a man as willing to scale the most death-defying structures as she is. Together with her husband Dan (Mason Gooding) and her best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner), she lives a seemingly exciting and fulfilling life adventuring with her loved ones, until tragedy strikes. Her husband falls to his death during a climb the trio embark on, leaving Becky completely stricken with grief. The disaster sends her into a severe depression where she turns to alcohol to cope as Hunter disappears from her life with little explanation. And then, one day, her best friend returns to console her—and present her with an invitation that she hopes will help assuage the fear Becky has about returning to her life in the fullest way possible. Hunter proposes that the pair climb a remote, 2,000 foot TV tower, and that, as Shakespeare once wrote, is the two-hours traffic of our stage.

The film never relies on the easiest way out or to satisfy a plot point, and in a movie that could end up so predictable it hurts, it was enjoyable to be continually guessing where and when the next disaster or twist would take place. I appreciated that every time it seemed like the worst might obviously happen, it didn’t. Fall found less conventional and less predictable ways to execute plot points that would have otherwise been formulaic.

When the girls make their way to the top of the TV tower, they do some really stupid stuff up there. Hunter makes a point to hang off the side of the pizza box-sized platform at the top of the tower for YouTube channel footage. In a more obvious survival thriller, she should’ve died then. There are several moments like this, and the unpredictability definitely made for a more enjoyable experience from start to finish. In this way, Fall improves upon the survival thriller genre, which can be so transparent it becomes boring.

With such a gimmicky premise, you’d expect the acting to be on the backburner in service of the concept. But Currey and Gardner are compatible as best friends, and do a lot of decent lifting throughout the film as emotional moments surface and tensions mount. They also have a couple of cute, funny bits throughout the movie, bringing in small nuggets of comic relief when we need them, especially early in their plight. Again, we’re not getting Oscar nominations with these roles, or this story, but the performances are notably above what one would expect from a movie that clearly got made because the premise is bound to get people watching on the grounds of hatred or curiosity alone. Currey and Gardner make you feel for their characters beyond just being completely terrified of the situation they’ve gotten themselves into, and it’s hard to ask for more than that with a movie this premise-centric.

In addition to the pleasing performances, Fall isn’t exactly boring to look at. Cinematographer MacGregor employs several unique shots and camera angles—mild out-of-context spoilers, but the ladder fall and the shoe drop come to mind—that set the picture apart from other direct-to-video B-movies in the same sensational style. MacGregor also shot the 2019 existential horror Vivarium, and for these two to be the only feature films on his resume shows that he has a keen eye for both style and commercialism. He meshes those sensibilities well in Fall, combining your typical CGI-laden sensational shots with smarter, more inventive frames. The movie’s FX aren’t exactly the most seamless or believable at times, but it could be a lot worse. The last thing I want is them shooting this at the actual top of a real 2000-foot radio tower, so as an alternative, this is a perfectly respectable trade-off.

Director Scott Mann joined forces with Jonathan Frank to pen the script, which is where those unconventional choices were born. While the dialogue itself isn’t anything innovative, the story Mann and Frank put on the page is the bedrock of what makes this movie fun and thrilling, so credit must be given where it’s due. The story is where everything about a movie starts, so that has to be solid before we can add in performances, cool shots and other aspects crucial to filmmaking—and Fall, for what it is, is a solid survival thriller with a B-movie spirit, thanks to Mann and Frank’s disastrously suspenseful narrative that almost never does what you think it will.

If you’re going to bring us to the top of a nauseatingly high, nearly crumbling tower, the least you can do is add some surprises along the way—and that saves Fall from tumbling off the ledge into tackiness.

Director: Scott Mann
Writer: Scott Mann, Jonathan Frank
Stars: Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Release Date: August 12, 2022

Lex Briscuso is an entertainment, film and culture writer who eats, sleeps, and breathes exceptional horror, sweeping dramas, and top-notch acting. She is a news desk writer at /Film and has bylines at FANGORIA, The Guardian, Shudder’s The Bite and EUPHORIA. Her horror radio show, YOUR NICHE IS DEAD, is live Mondays 5pm ET. She tweets @nikonamerica.