You must have seen those videos on social media. Click-driven crazy swaying from the side of the cliffs, sticking out his tongue at the camera, a big “Wooooooooooooooooo!” You smile, maybe even moan, so give it a proper “Oh hell no!” share with.
That is the downfall. The downfall is “Oh, Hell No: The Movie,” and it’s as addictive as any of those sick videos you immediately showed someone on your phone. It’s a pity for this critic that he saw it at home, not with a theater packed with “Uh-uh!” back to the screen. But with the ability to pause, even on the couch, it’s the heights (ha!) of quintessential B-movie greatness.
Fall stars Grace Caroline Curry as Becky, a (former) climber, still in mourning when her husband died before her eyes. Virginia Gardner (also on that day) is Hunter, a courageous YouTuber who, nearly a year after the accident, is determined to get her friend back on her feet.
Hunter uncovers a decommissioned TV tower in the middle—basically a giant, rusty staircase of nowhere. It’s more than twice the height of the Eiffel Tower, and Hunter convinces Becky to climb up, do some Instagram shoots, scatter the dead husband’s ashes, and live, really.
It doesn’t take long for things to go horribly wrong. Decked out in story-relevant padded bras and tank tops (“Tits for the cliques!” said Hunter, which isn’t really a rhyme) two young women make their way to the top, then find themselves trapped in the air more than 2,000 feet. When the ladder falls. It’s nothing but a smooth pole at the bottom, their cellphones don’t work, they don’t have much water, and they have to take a detour. What’s a girl to do?!?
Screenwriters Jonathan Frank and Scott Mann (the latter of whom also directed) pull act after act out of thin air, each of whom, at first, seems to be their salvation. (Many of them even include removing their socks and shoes, or other articles of clothing for story purposes. What a picture!) This is a great example of the Cinema of Aggression: They must achieve X, but before To be able to do that, they have to do Y, but as it happens, Z comes out of nowhere and makes a fuss.
Not only does every attempt to bring them down from the top of this huge foolish pole fails, it fails in the most heartbreaking way. Each brutal turn turns one by one, like watching a soccer team brilliantly set up to be blocked by a miraculous goalkeeper. It’s funny. There are also vultures that keep circling, eager to peck a wound bleeding from Becky’s legs from her absurdly tight pants.
Fall is produced by two righteous showmen named James Harris and Mark Lane, who, in 2017, brought us another wonderfully silly survival film, 47 Meter Down. If you remember, that movie sent two charming young women (searching for Instagram photos) to the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by a shark, which was on a chum. Picture Harris and Lane, feet on desks, cigars in their mouths. “Okay, we sent two beauties down, what to do now?” “I get it! Send them over!” “Great! You want Thai?” “No, I had Thai yesterday.” “But you love Thai!” “Okay, you want to order Thai, let’s order Thai, I won’t make any fuss.”
Yucks aside, falling is a really enjoyable thing to do—if you let it happen. There are some things that are not fully understood. (My wife was sure to list them when we saw the movie.) If Hunter is such a skilled adventurer, why is he wearing Converse sneakers? It gets cold in the desert; Won’t they freeze over night? Surely there isn’t a tower that just uses a regular lightbulb—and who replaces the lightbulb out there? What else is the normal person “just you!” Talk to a YouTuber somewhere in the middle of a giant pole with no food or water?
The film’s two leads certainly win points for effort, but their attempts to sell a few moments of heavy drama fall short. Virginia Gardner has a little bit of Reese Witherspoon going on, despite the fact that it seems like the character might be called more for her “roller derby look.” Whether this makes for some refreshingly unconventional casting or seems to be a round peg/square hole position is open to debate.
What’s really surprising is that just before the movie ends a character makes the final decision, which no one will be able to see, especially with the film’s PG-13 rating. But for the crowd looking for laid-back fun—one that gets into this sort of thing early weekend—fall is about to drive them crazy.