Released back in August for the States and September for the United Kingdom, the latest survival thriller to grace the big screen soars high above its competitors — and we mean high. Scott Mann, who previously worked on Heist and Final Score, returns to direct Fall, Lionsgate’s nauseating feature about two adrenaline junkie BFFs who daringly scale a 2000 foot TV tower in the middle of the desert, only to find themselves stranded after the ladder breaks off.
Grace Caroline Currey, whom superhero fans will recognize as Mary Bromfield from the DCEU’s Shazam!, and Virginia Elizabeth Gardner, otherwise known as Karolina Dean in Marvel’s Runaways, both deliver heart-stopping performances as Becky and Hunter, respectively. Mason Gooding and Jeffrey Dean Morgan co-star as Dan, Becky’s deceased husband, and James, Becky’s over-protective father.
There’s no denying that Currey and Gardner are an incredible duo, generating a unique onscreen chemistry that defies definition, representing as neither lovers nor purely friends. There’s something more sinister that dwells in the background that reveals itself later on (no spoilers here), one that marks a turning point for Becky’s character where she loses respect for Hunter and discovers some unchecked animosity towards her.
Fall sees Becky suffering a tragedy; becoming a recluse and an alcoholic, afraid to face the world again. Meanwhile, her best friend Hunter has climbed the ranks of internet fame and become an overnight sensation as a vlogger and adrenaline junkie. Both are fearless climbers, but from what Hunter describes, she has scaled monuments that most humans wouldn’t even attempt.
When Hunter visits Becky proposing that they no longer live in fear, she suggests climbing a 2000 foot TV tower to both mark a milestone for themselves and entertain Hunter’s enormous online following. Although reluctant, Becky agrees, but the whole expedition goes from bad to worse after the duo find themselves stranded 610m above the ground without food, water, signal, or any means of coming down to Earth again.
Neither Mann nor cinematographer Miguel “MacGregor” Olaso skips a single beat in amping up the fear factor. For acrophobes, it might trigger a fight-or-flight response, but they’re certain to find comfort in the knowledge that everyone else is just as scared as they are — acrophobia or not. That terror is owed entirely to the shot composition, specifically facing downwards, which churns stomachs and instills a raw and real sense of dread.
From the get-go, there isn’t a dull moment to be had; the initial ascent has us gripping our seats and thinking, “Why would you do this?” Throughout, the feeling of gratitude to be safe and secure on the ground is turned on its head; we’re lulled into a false sense of security at all times, a specific “this isn’t so bad” mindset that rips the proverbial rug from under our feet when something inevitably goes wrong. We, as an audience, accept that we’re forced to go along for the ride, even if we really, really don’t want to.
As mentioned, Currey and Gardner are an unmatched pair, both comedically and practically, owning different acting styles and portraying polar opposite roles that mesh together so perfectly — so harmoniously — that it makes the terrifying drop all the more formidable. We grow to love these characters, their flaws and their imperfections, so we start rooting for them, which is a technique Mann precisely executes from the very beginning. As much as Hunter in particular isn’t the ideal friend nor companion, knowing that she could make a fatal mistake (as could Becky) unlocks a particular protectiveness in viewers that is difficult to describe, but the circumstances feel so out of control and out of our hands that we can only watch helplessly.
Much like any other survival horror, we ask ourselves, “What would I do in that situation?” and as Becky and Hunter exhaust every single option, the chances of survival dwindle to near zero. It’s so realistic, so spectacular and so possible that Mann grounds us with a firm reminder: this could happen to anyone. And isn’t that truly the most terrifying thought there is? Much like serial killer documentaries, audiences live off the very real possibility of it all, the “it could have been me” feeling that hits way closer to home than we’d like.
Throughout, the danger is balanced out with light-hearted comedy, but as the scenario grows more dire and more desperate, the happiness, joy and wonder is snuffed out like a light by an impending death — and a gruesome one at that. Constantly, audiences are in a state of turmoil over the reality and gravity of the problem, even watching through a screen, safe and sound.
Towards the end, Mann drops an unexpected twist out of absolutely nowhere. Whereas practical thinkers might see it coming, most of us will be left slack-jawed to discover the truth in the lies, and the reality in our whirlwind imagination. There’s one message that runs through Fall like the blood pumping through our veins as we sit for two hours on the edge of our seats; humans can be frail and fickle creatures, or they can be mighty predators; but the will to survive is more powerful than most predicaments.
Acrophobes might want to steer clear of this one, but for thrill seekers everywhere, Fall is a cinematic spectacle unlike any other. It’s bold, it’s brilliant and it’s real — and those are the qualities of a thriller that will stand the test of time, and will become undoubtedly notorious. Everything from the acting to the camerawork and the imposing score makes Fall a memorable mark in transcending fiction, making our greatest fears come to life.
Acrophobes might want to steer clear of this one, but for thrill seekers everywhere, Scott Mann's 'Fall' is a cinematic spectacle unlike any other.