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Case Number 02447

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Wes Craven Presents: Don't Look Down

Artisan // 1998 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // December 5th, 2002

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All Rise...

The Charge

Genuinely nail-biting!

Opening Statement

Not scary. Not thrilling. Not suspenseful. Nail-biting…why not? You might as well be productive while this movie is playing, and fingernail maintenance is as good as anything. Whatever you do, don't look down…you might find some belly button lint that needs your attention.

Facts of the Case

A swell photographer takes his hot wife (Carla) and hotter sister-in-law up in the mountains for a photo shoot. One loose railing and several horrified faces later, little sis (Rachel) does a nice half-gainer off the edge. Her scarf floats eerily in the air.

At the funeral, Carla freaks out and thinks her pulverized sister is still alive. Mind you, the cremated remains are in her hands, but whatever. Carla develops acrophobia (fear of heights), which makes it difficult for her to take elevators, park her car, or do flagpole sitting. This is ruining her life, so she seeks help.

Luckily a local psychologist is doing an extreme acrophobia group therapy experiment. He uses dubious methods to treat his patients, and they start mysteriously dying. Meanwhile, Carla becomes more and more convinced that her sister is taunting her from beyond. Good thing she has such a sweet and understanding husband to help her get through all this!

The Evidence

The most interesting thing about this DVD is how they did the cover art. It must rule to be a cover art guy. "Hey, this one is vaguely suspenseful. Make something scary for the cover."
"Why don't I throw a skull on the back? Heh-heh, skulls are COOL!"

This is possibly the least original, most predictable horror film in existence. Stop me if you've heard any of these before:

• "Take my hand! I've got you! I won't let go!"
• "I'm not accusing you, I'm just discussing this really coincidental and damning evidence."
• "Am I under arrest? Charge me or let me go."
• "We've got to stick together. It's the only way we can make it through this."
• "I want you to stay away from him. I don't trust him."
• "I'm not crazy!"
• "Those who quit are called babies. Those who fight are called warriors!"
• "What really happened up on that mountain?"

If any of the above have you on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next, by all means rent Wes Craven Presents: Don't Look Down and enjoy it with my apologies.

I'm no expert on the genre, but I think horror movies are supposed to be scary in some way. I believe part of the suspense comes from not knowing what comes next, who is good and who is evil. I labor under the assumption that horror films should take chances, hint at something truly malignant, vile, or supernatural. Don't Look Down breaks all the rules!

There are routine visits from a little girl with blood in her teeth. The first time she appeared, I thought about being scared, but all I could manage was a weak sigh. They took the atmosphere to new heights by lighting a bunch of candles, which inexplicably works sometimes. Not this time.

Later on, people start dying. We never actually see, but we know it is happening because people run out of buildings with pained looks on their faces. I think after each commercial break, the announcer should have said "We now return you to the regularly scheduled deaths already in progress."

One of the scary things is that stuff in Rachel's room keeps moving around. A scarf gently draped over the bedrail winds up on the pillow! Hey, wasn't that flute broken yesterday? Don't fret. They let you know which item will teleport next through drawn out closing shots on the item du jour, lest the shock of seeing the scarf on the pillow should be too much.

Everything Don't Look Down attempts has been done better somewhere else. The "intensive therapy group gets killed off" schtick was more suspenseful in The Color of Night. The opening echoes Cliffhanger, and like a real echo the imitation is weaker. The dramatic mountain standoff was much scarier in North By Northwest.

The overacting quickly grew tiresome. Rachel is a carefree spirit. We know that because she flails her arms about while spinning in place, letting the sun wash over her rapturous face. The psychologist is bright, intense, but misunderstood. We know this because he purses his lips and furrows his brow. Ben, the reclusive agoraphobic, walks with hunched shoulders and looks around furtively.

Let me ask you something: What is special about these features?

• Full Screen Presentation
• 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround
• Scene Selections
• Interactive Menus
• Closed Captioning

To compound the insult, the menus are decidedly non-interactive. Unless you mean "interactive" in the sense of "well, you have to press the button to get the movie to start." If so, you got me there.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

This movie does have some things going for it. The psychological angle regarding acrophobia is mildly interesting. Why do we fear? What happens when we break through that fear? Don't bother, the film doesn't explore these issues.

The cinematography is quite good for a TV movie. Creative use of crane shots heightens the sense of menace at key times. And I don't know how they did it, but they got a piece of newspaper to dance just like the scarf in the beginning of the movie. I wonder how many sheets of newspaper they had to use before they got the shot. Ironically, the solid cinematography contributes to Don't Look Down's downfall, making it feel like a Family Channel pseudo-drama. I think Hallmark had a hand in the production, which explains a lot. Hallmark and Horror go together like oil and water.

Megan Ward as Carla has some moments where she actually holds this flick together. I bet she'd be good in a real movie.

The transfer is clean and bright, and the colors are punchy. There are few specks, and the occasional digital conversion artifacts were not distracting. But the image periodically blurs and refocuses, like some sort of haunting pulse.

Closing Statement

I've seen after school specials that were scarier than this. If you want a real scare, open that pizza box in the back of the fridge. Whatever you do, don't look down.

The Verdict

All parties are guilty as charged. Wes Craven is to wear a red letter "A" for the rest of his days. The cast and crew are to be given sleeping pills and heavy narcotics in the hope that nightmares will inspire actual fear in their next effort. Get out of my courtroom!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 75
Audio: 50
Extras: 0
Acting: 25
Story: 22
Judgment: 24

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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