‘Fall’ Review – Daunting Heights and Acrophobic Thrills Hardly Distract from Copycat Story

Survival horror takes aim at acrophobia with Lionsgate’s adrenaline-seeking Fall. Two women trapped at the peak of a 2,000-foot radio tower in the middle of nowhere and with no cell signal means a series of obstacles to contend with beyond vertigo-inducing heights. While the lean, mean thriller does offer bursts of intense action and acrophobic chills, Fall crashes headfirst into a film we’ve already seen before, nearly beat for beat.

Best friends Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner), along with Becky’s husband (Mason Gooding), live to push their limits and chase extreme adrenaline rushes. However, one misstep on a mountain climb sends Becky into a deep depressive state that means retreating from friends, family, and her fearless ways. To shake her out of it, Hunter talks Becky into accompanying her on a bucket list excursion, scaling one of the world’s tallest structures. Becky and Hunter succeed in reaching the top, but the lack of upkeep on a long-abandoned radio tower in a remote area leaves them stranded without food, water, or help.

Director Scott Mann, working from a script co-written with Jonathan Frank, maintains a brisk pace for the 70-minute thriller. There’s a concise simplicity to the setup. The foreboding, almost Final Destination-like layer of clues will trigger a domino effect of catastrophe. The emotional stakes for Becky and the clashing personality with the more outgoing and impulsive Hunter all lay the groundwork for the conflicts and setbacks that propel the story forward through daunting moments.

Fall is at its strongest when focused on the acrophobic visuals and thrills. Establishing shots of the small platform atop the narrow, unsettlingly high tower inherently instill tension. Overhead and wide shots instill acrophobic suspense as they convey just how precarious the situation is for Becky and Hunter. The effective use of the elements and velocity exacerbates the unnerving quality. The seams occasionally show, however; an opening sequence is undermined by overt green screen.

When Fall lets other survival elements and character conflicts come into focus, it becomes increasingly apparent that it’s reframing the skeleton of another contemporary survival horror movie. By Fall’s third act, it’s no longer shy about the direct emulation. Two women on an adventure, one reluctantly coaxed into it by a far more daring personality, become trapped in a dire survival scenario thanks to cataclysmic structural mishaps. They’ve only got each other as time becomes of the essence and the elements wreak havoc on the body and mind. Even a flare in the pitch black, giving way to a jump scare, gets repurposed here. Relocating the familiar narrative to the top of a 2000-foot tower can’t mask that we’ve seen this exact story before.

Supporting player Jeffrey Dean Morgan tries his best to bring emotional stakes to the story but can’t overcome the limitations of his role. Gardner and Currey also struggle to provide rooting interest for their one-dimensional characters. We care more about their plight rather than Becky and Hunter. That wouldn’t be a sticking point if Fall didn’t manufacture and emphasize the personal drama between them to pad the already short running time.

It’s more glaring for how barebones it is. There’s not much to Fall; it’s a simple setup meant to showcase the thrills. Mann does create some intense sequences and vertigo-inducing composition from the minimalistic scenario and zips the story along at a rapid clip. But the novelty of the setting gets diminished by the realization that Fall inorganically wedges its characters into a recycled plot.

Fall releases in theaters on August 12, 2022.

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