Two girls. One TV tower measuring 2,000 feet high. Their mission? Climb the tower and reach the top. It was a simple premise that takes place in a very confined space. The kind that evokes a sense of claustrophobic tension and edge-of-your-seat suspense. And for that, co-writer and director Scott Mann — a B-movie specialist who made genre movies like The Tournament (2009) and Final Score (2018) — does an overall good job fulfiling those promises in the otherwise generically-titled Fall.
The girls in question are avid climbers Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and her best friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner). When we first met them, they are scaling rocks with Becky’s husband Dan (Mason Gooding) before a climbing accident causes Dan’s life. Fifty-one weeks after her husband’s death, Becky is still unable to move on and she would spend her time getting drunk every night. Her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) wanted to help her but she prefers to be left alone.
Then, one day, Hunter shows up at her front door, where she hopes Becky could join her on a climbing challenge to the top of an abandoned B67 TV tower in the middle of the desert. Becky hesitated at first but eventually agrees to her offer, particularly after Hunter manages to convince her about overcoming her fear of climbing as well as giving her the opportunity to scatter her late husband’s ashes.
Things go well at first and even though they manage to reach the top of the TV tower, an unlikely disaster happens: The ladder breaks and falls off, leaving the two stranded on top.
From there, they try everything to reach out for help but as hours and days go by, it looks as if their chances of survival are dimmed.
Despite lacking star power to lead the movie, Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner deliver better-than-expected performances as two best friends who share the same passion for climbing. It helps that Scott Mann and Jonathan Frank’s screenplay establish their friendship from the get-go, which in turn, makes us care whether they will make it at the end of the movie.
But the movie’s real deal has to be the way Scott Mann and his crew manage to pull off a vertigo-inducing thriller, where the stakes are high and the dread-inducing thrills feel palpable. Believe it or not, this movie costs a measly $3 million budget (!) and yet, the combination of a purposely-built TV tower (it was reportedly modelled after the KXTV/KOVR Tower a.k.a. Sacramento Joint Venture Tower) and CGI effects look largely convincing enough.
Fall also benefits from Mann’s dynamic camerawork and MacGregor’s cinematography, where the latter successfully captured the stunning view of the on-location Mojave Desert. It was nevertheless an impressive feat to see MacGregor shooting it for real instead of taking place entirely on a green screen like I figured this low-budget movie would have done in the first place.
As for the former, Mann certainly has the knack for camera movements and placements that maximise the thrills and suspense. Not to forget some creative shots including a freefalling scene from the perspective of a sneaker dropped from the top of the TV tower.
Interestingly enough, I originally thought Fall is going to be a straightforward thriller about survival. But as the movie progresses further, Mann and Jonathan Frank manage to slip in some unexpected narrative turns, complete with a twist or two that I admit I didn’t see it coming.
Overall, Fall is a little good thriller worth checking out, even though it runs a little too long for such a single-location movie at 107 minutes. Maybe a tighter pace and a trimmed-down 90 minutes would have hit the sweet spot. Some scenes tend to stretch believability but then again, it’s all expected for this kind of movie and at least Mann doesn’t push them too far and too often.
I also realised the movie has many scenes where the characters’ profanity-laden dialogues feel like they were digitally altered and as it turns out, Mann actually had them (the F-words) changed to secure a PG-13 rating using the lip-synced visualisations called TrueSynce AI technology. Well, I’m glad they do not sound patchy or forceful but it would be nice if we get to see the original director’s cut (the uncensored dialogue, that is) in the near future.