Warrant. Remember them? Your local gentlemen’s club DJ probably does. So do the makers of Fall, landing in theatres Friday with all manner of unintentional amusement. Millennials with landlines and answering machines. Their inability to locate a giant structure that has a big, blinking red light on it (and appears to be a few feet from the parking lot of the diner where they’re eating). And yes, “Cherry Pie,” Warrant’s pole-dancing paean, as musical motivation to climb to the absolute tippy-top of a 2,000-foot tower to perform a Hail-Mary hack for electricity. (At that height, to quote a Warrant song you probably forgot: Heaven isn’t too far away.)
Yes, the survivalist thrills in Fall occur nearly a half-mile high as estranged friends Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner) ascend a dilapidated TV tower and get stuck atop its small-platform summit. Although its Murphy’s Law milieu musters a modicum of momentum, Fall is mostly a women-versus-nature story as you might find on the CW — mindful of genre requisites on a vastly reduced budget (perhaps a bit too mindful) and that’s about it.
Nearly 30 years after Cliffhanger, nothing even scrapes its horrifying prologue. The closest the inciting incident of Fall comes is to resemble poor visual effects from 1993, as daredevil Dan (Mason Gooding) plummets to his doom in front of Hunter and Becky, his wife. Nearly a year later, Dan is just a voice on that improbable answering machine and a box of unscattered cremains. Becky’s pilot light died with Dan, but her dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) insists that in reversed roles, Dan wouldn’t waste away with sadness.
Hunter, meanwhile, has parlayed her pain into a well-monetized social-media feed on which she undertakes dangerous activities. Her next stunt? Climbing the rickety B-67 TV Tower, reportedly once the nation’s tallest structure. She wants Becky to join her You know, the old Becky. The one who had no problem writhing on poles to Warrant. (Hmm. Might that come in handy later?) Becky demurs but then Hunter asks her to remember what Dan always said: Live like you were dying. Wait. Get busy living or get busy dying. No, no. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Gah! If you’re scared of dying, don’t be afraid to live. There it is.
That’s the spirit in which Becky agrees to accompany an exceedingly irresponsible Hunter, who almost gets them T-boned by a tractor-trailer before they’re even within spitting distance of the tower. I mean, how would you respond when a flibbertigibbet friend asks if you want to kick fear in the dick? By going back to the hotel and surviving? Pansy. Anyway, Dan’s Successorized slogan is also the spirit in which Becky and Hunter amusingly press on despite numerous rungs snapping off well before the entire ladder apparatus springs loose and crashes to the ground. Oh, no! And one of them even has to pee! But wait, aren’t there people down below? Yeah, but they won’t see them waving from such great heights. Plus, one of them has a bleeding injury, and those vultures are starting to swoop in like Middle-earth eagles!
Gravity is not just Becky and Hunter’s enemy, it’s one of the many, many movies Fall shamelessly mimics without straining for any originality of its own. It also feebly attempts to foment Descent-like dissent, and the less said of its tumble down a familiar amount of meters, the better. Think open season on Open Water. A Crawl that doesn’t give its all. Given the vapid, easily ’Grammable quips in Fall that pass for poignancy, The Shallows is a fitting title. The deeper Fall goes into its 107 minutes, the more it bogarts, to a point where it feels like director / co-writer Scott Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank wrote this on second screens while binging those movies. The reason such things don’t push two hours is that they feel like 127.
It briefly seems like Fall’s distinguishing trait will be allowing Becky to contemplate whether Dan really would have given himself over to very much grief if she died. And while it does this (generally speaking), the sloppy melodramatic methods prove more messy than the film (or Currey and Gardner’s performances) can handle. Is cinematographer MacGregor’s tight-budget cinematography impressive enough to compensate? A bit. There are certainly enough establishing shots of the precipitous predicament to choose your favorite; mine is the one that pulls back far enough to render the tower a sort of large hypodermic needle, and these two ladies merely the bubbles to be flicked away by physics.
“Life is short,” Hunter says, an aphorism Becky applauds for its beautiful honesty. “Too short. Do something that makes you feel alive.” You could start by watching almost any of the aforementioned movies — all likely to set your heart rate higher than Fall or just put a smile on your face 10 miles wide.