FRIGHTFEST 2022: Fall (2022)

dir. Scott Mann

Following a freak climbing accident that claims the life of her husband, traumatised Becky (Grace Fulton) tumbles into a free fall of booze and late night calls to her dead partner’s answer machine whilst her dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) struggles to comfort her. So when estranged friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) invites Becky to face her fears with a 2,000 ft climb up an abandoned TV tower, it might just be the catharsis she needs to find closure and reset her life.

Things don’t start well however. Hunter is a risk taker, so focussed on recording footage for her YouTube vlog she nearly causes a crash (when Becky calls her a “like whore” she’s only half-joking) and is apparently unperturbed by the isolated adventure they’re embarking upon. The TV mast too is huge, piercing the sky like a vast vertical needle: “You know this was once the tallest structure in the US!” swoons Hunter, seemingly oblivious that it has also fallen into disrepair, being rusted and alarmingly shaky.

As they press higher – past ominous vultures acting as none-too-subtle harbingers of death – the stage is set for a vertiginous survival story as the friends find themselves stuck atop, battling to return to earth (but, you know, not at speed). In this director Scott Mann (best known perhaps for Bautista vehicle Final Score) channels influences including 127 Hours and particularly Neil Marshall’s The Descent: indeed the latter seems to have been mined for so many plot points one might reasonably re-title this The Ascent.

If story beats feel recycled this is forgiven by the nauseating, vertigo-inducing set pieces. Fulton and Gardner do just enough to keep audience sympathies engaged, and whilst not always successful the third act levels some genuine gut punches which will send viewers reeling.

Ultimately Fall lands alongside other survival-genre flicks – including most recently The Reef: Stalked – that seem to suggest exposure therapy is the best way of overcoming past pain. For audiences however watching someone else cling on for dear life feels just enough: it’s unlikely anyone will be climbing an abandoned tower after watching this.

Tim Coleman

⭐️⭐️⭐️

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