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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
The Shaft (aka Down) (2001)

"Cheers! To the exciting life of an elevator repairman."
- Mark (James Marshall)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 18, 2003

Stars: Naomi Watts, James Marshall
Other Stars: Eric Thal, Edward Herrmann, Michael Ironside, Dan Hedaya, Ron Perlman
Director: Dick Maas

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, language and some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:51m:31s
Release Date: May 20, 2003
UPC: 012236141129
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CC+B+ D+

DVD Review

Dutch director Dick Maas has essentially remade his own 1983 film De Lift with 2001's The Shaft (originally entitled Down), about an evil elevator system that suddenly begins killing people in a fancy-schmancy skyscraper. Artisan has shamelessly redesigned the cover art to resemble The Ring, and to highlight the presence of star Naomi Watts, though who that kid on the cover is supposed to be is really anyone's guess, because he is certainly not in the movie I watched.

The Millennium Building is a towering New York City skyscraper (102 floors, 73 elevators), and after a violent electrical storm, the building's elevator system begins to exhibit some deadly behavior, which includes luring a blind man and his dog into falling 86 stories down an elevator shaft. A pair of elevator repairmen, played by Eric Thal and James Marshall, are called in to get things fixed, though it would certainly seem that the sheer scope of the project would logically require the presence of more than just two guys, one of whom is perpetually hungover. A pre-Mulholland Drive Watts plays Jennifer Evans, a nosy young reporter investigating the deadly happenings, and of course she crosses paths with Marshall's Mark, and the two bicker back and forth on their way to discovering the source of the elevator attacks.

In between the dull investigative drivel, Maas delivers a few fun horror moments, including a spectacular elevator door decapitation and a fun bird's-eye P.O.V. of a character's leap off the observation deck. In addition to the aforementioned blind man (and his dog) taking a tumble, Maas even subjects an elevator full of very pregnant women to a terrifying ride, and his capper is a jam-packed Willy Wonka-like rocket ride that nearly bursts through the roof of the building.

With the exception of a few establishing shots, it appears that much of The Shaft was shot in Europe, and the unconvincing "New Yawk" accents of most of the extras is definitely giggle-worthy. To Maas's credit, he has somehow managed to fill the film with a decent blend of familiar faces in supporting roles, including Edward Herrmann (the building manager), Dan Hedaya (a police lieutenant), Ron Perlman (the elevator repair company boss) and venerable bad guy Michael Ironside (a Teutonic elevator research and development guy).

Things really get weird and cheesy during the last thirty minutes or so, as the truth about the deadly elevator system is revealed, though Maas throws in a nifty little Die Hard-styled elevator shaft sequence with Marshall's character dangling from cables and dodging explosions on his way to the top of the shaft. But by that time the film has meandered on a bit too long (109 minutes!), and the somewhat inane payoff is unrewarding.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The backcover states The Shaft is presented in its original 1.33:1 format, but the horrible cropping and framing in a number of scenes makes me suspect otherwise. Despite the annoyance of the aspect ratio inconsistencies, colors look pretty good, with well-rendered fleshtones. Black levels are strong, with clean, deep shadow delineation. Not much in the way of print flaws other than a few nicks that were evident.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There isn't much difference between the 2.0 and 5.1 surround tracks provided here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I flipped back and forth between the two, and both offered easily discernible dialogue and a nicely structured soundstage. The aggressive 5.1 track offered noticeably more punch from sub and presence from the rears, and a few incidental moments had more distinct channel separation than did the 2.0 mix.

Nicely done, Artisan.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Artisan has shafted (I couldn't resist) us in the extras department, providing just a theatrical trailer, Spanish subtitles and 12 chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

There are brief moments of great fun in the murderous elevator flick, The Shaft, but too much time is spent talking and the dramatic payoff is a real eye-roller, even in B-movie horror terms. Artisan has supplied a solid 5.1 surround track, but the horribly cropped 1.33:1 fullframe transfer almost negates that.

Yep, The Shaft has its ups and downs.


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