There are many ways to create nail-biting suspense. Being trapped with little chance of escape is at the top of the list.
Recent examples include 47 Meters Down (2017) in which two sisters vacationing in Mexico find themselves trapped in a shark cage on the ocean floor with an hour’s worth of oxygen and menacing sharks circling above them in the 47 meters of water that separate them from freedom. It’s a terrifying predicament.
Fall turns that premise upside down with two young women trapped on top of a 2000-foot abandoned antenna tower in the middle of nowhere with little chance of being rescued. Also, a terrifying predicament. Particularly for anyone with a fear of heights.
Convincing special effects are a big part of making a movie like this work. What’s also required is an equally convincing story that can bring the audience aboard for the ride, or in this case, the climb.
Effects-wise, Fall rises to the task, creating a very believable sense of towering elevation and sheer terror that ensues when the rusty, abandoned old structure begins to fall apart beneath you.
The biggest thing that Fall has going for it is a masterful ability to put you at the very top of this proverbial tower of terror and never, for even a minute, have you lose your sense of heart stopping height.
It’s a pretty remarkable feat considering the fact that Fall does not appear to be a big-budget movie from a major studio with a powerhouse effects department. Nevertheless, it gets the job done. The thrills, the terror, and the pure adrenaline, death-defying rush are all there, all worth the price of admission.
Where Fall falls short is in the writing. Without giving away too much, the story takes place in the aftermath of a horrifying climbing accident in which one of the two main characters named Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) loses the love of her life when he falls thousands of feet to his death. No spoilers here, all of that is spelled out in the movie trailers.
The incident underlies the premise of Fall in which Becky’s best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) shares a crazy plan to climb an abandoned metal tower in the middle of the desert. Part of the reason involves pure, thrill-seeking adventure and part of the reason is Hunter’s attempt to help Becky conquer her fear of climbing and come to confront the ugly tragedy that has shattered her life.
Both women share a common thread of fearlessness and impulsiveness, and consequently with only a minor amount of arm-twisting, Hunter convinces Becky to climb the tower. Their plan is to post the dangerous, death-defying stunt on social media for all the world to see including selfies of them precariously hanging from the top of the tower with one hand as well as drone shots documenting the dizzying heights.
It’s clear, early on, that for these two young women enthusiasm and excitement far outweigh basic common sense.
Neither of them seems the least bit concerned about the possibility of something going horribly wrong.
God knows there are warning signs, beginning with the large, weathered "No Trespassing" sign and chain link fence at the base of the antenna.
The ominous creaking sounds as they ascend are ignored as are the jarring moments as rivets and screws start popping loose leading to the collapse of the ladder that they need to eventually climb down.
Perhaps the biggest bone-headed mistake is not telling a single soul about where they were going and what they were attempting to do.
Once atop the tower, they discover that their cell phones, whose batteries never seem to deplete, don’t work at the height of 2000 feet, leaving them stranded on a small metal platform with a backpack, a bottle of water, a drone and some climbing gear.
Since they never imagined spending much time on the tower, they are only wearing low-cut cotton tops, cutoff shorts and tennis shoes.
Though one would imagine that a metal tower would become scalding hot out in the middle of the desert in the heat of the summer sun, they never seem to have an issue.
There are a lot of details in Fall that really don’t add up or make much sense. It’s hard to feel much sympathy or empathy for two women who become victims of their own hastily concocted plan, fraught with stupidity.
But details like that aside, the movie presents a very convincing tale of two women clinging for dear life atop a rusty tower on the verge of collapsing. Fall takes the audience along for the ride creating stunning visual effects that make it seem terrifying and real.
For the most part, it’s a two-character movie which is a challenge in and of itself. They exchange a lot of dialogue. The story drifts into soap opera fluff as the women stumble upon dark secrets from their past. Worse, there is a story twist plucked straight out of the Shailene Woodley movie Adrift (2018) that might have been best to avoid.
One final criticism is the abrupt ending that seems to wrap the story up much too quickly, denying the audience details leading up to the finale that they might liked to have seen in more detail.
Despite the flaws and shortcomings, Fall is still worth seeing and experiencing, The effects are remarkable. I was reminded of a similar movie about mountain climbing called Cliffhanger that Silvester Stallone starred in back in 1993 that had me practically jumping out of my seat with a spectacular fall that takes place in the opening reel.
Movies like these aren’t for the faint of heart or anyone with a fear of heights.
Everyone else is invited to come along and climb a rickety metal antenna tower 2000 feet into the sky. It’s white knuckle entertainment all the way.
Fall is in theaters now.