Good movies make us feel something new, showing how the language of cinema can still surprise us when we think we’ve seen everything already. Bad films also have a charm of their own, teaching by example how disastrous some creative choices can be. Fall, however, is as bland as a film can be, unable to climb out of the well of its own mediocrity.
Fall follows the misadventure of two friends, Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner), as they get trapped on the top of an abandoned TV tower, with no means of escaping. Stranded 2000 feet above the ground, the two must work together to figure out how they can be rescued. Such a concept could be explored as an intimate drama about the fragility of life, as a celebration of human willpower in the face of adversity, or as a straight-out horror movie where the victims cannot escape the danger. Unfortunately, Fall tries to do the three at the same time and comes short on all fronts.
Since most of Fall takes place on the top of a metal tower, we follow Becky and Hunter almost exclusively. Of course, that was already to be expected, but the constraints of the unique set demand brilliant performances for us to keep engaged in the story. Sadly, Currey (Annabelle: Creation) and Gardner (Marvel’s Runaways) cannot make us care about Becky and Hunter. Not that it’s their fault alone, especially considering how shallow their characters are written.
Becky became a frightened pessimist after tragedy struck her life, while Hunter is the always-happy YouTuber willing to live dangerously. Naturally, their glass half full / half empty dynamics get stale really quick, but Fall doesn’t give any of the characters a second personality trait. Even worse, when the two friends are forced to look back at the past and realize they have unsolved issues with one another, the script drops the problem with two lines of dialogue, as if it was not concerned with the exploration of human drama.
It’s also hard to hope for Becky and Hunter’s safety when Fall shows, right from the start, that they are to blame for their tragic situation. Movies like Buried or 147 Meters Down work because we can relate to the victims trapped in a small escape and surrounded by danger – external forces always trap these people in the most inhospitable places. In Fall, on the other hand, Hunter and Becky cause their own misfortune by ignoring all common sense and climbing a metal tower covered in rust, with screws visibly missing and parts falling down even before they get to the top. No suspension of disbelief can lead us to cheer for these two characters who make many dumb choices in sequence, even though they should be climbing professionals with plenty of knowledge and experience regarding safety measures.
Finally, while Fall is not a horror movie, it occasionally tries to bring in explicit scenes of gore. While these moments theoretically remind us of the danger, they often feel gratuitous, and they don’t help move the plot forward. 127 Hours might have some of the most never-wrecking sequences in cinema history, but all the blood and guts are there to show how far humans are willing to go to survive. In Fall, brutal scenes show up as a result of something that cannot be avoided, and when we don’t care about the protagonists, it’s challenging to share their fear.
With weak leads and shallow characters, Fall fails the audience by its inability to present human beings we can care about. As if that wasn’t enough to diminish the supposed danger of being stranded in the heights, the movie is also incapable of creating clear risks, especially when the character’s background underlines they should be a lot more competent than they are. Finally, the few gore scenes scattered through the runtime feel gratuitous, an afterthought that doesn’t fit the narrative quite well. Fall might still be effective in thrilling people afraid of heights, but everyone else might just get bored by the half-baked human drama.