Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Don't Look Down (1998)
"All of a sudden, when I'm in a high place, I feel the drop pulling me and all I can think about is falling."- Carla (Megan Ward)
Stars: Megan Ward, Billy Burke, Terry Kinney
Other Stars: Tara Spencer-Nairn, Angela Moore, William McDonald, Kate Robbins
Director: Larry Shaw
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:04s
Release Date: 2002-10-22
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewIn the old days, Wes Craven's name on a project really meant something to horror fans. He was, after all, the man responsible for a number of genre classics, including A Nightmare On Elm Street, Swamp Thing, The Last House On The Left and of course the infamous The Hills Have Eyes. The guy is definitely an icon, and though his name is boldly splattered across the cover art for Artisan's release of the 1998 television movie Don't Look Down, Craven only served as Executive Producer. It's this dilution of his name, which is now apparently just marketing fodder, that makes what should have been high expectations of a film like this that much more difficult to achieve.
When a tragic accident, involving a deadly tumble into a deep gorge, kills her younger sister, hotshot reporter Carla Engel (Megan Ward) suddenly becomes a major acrophobic (i.e. she has a life-stopping fear of heights and/or falling). In an effort to cure his wife of her fears, Carla's loving husband Mark (Billy Burke) points her toward a controversial, experimental researcher of acrophobia, Dr. Paul Sadowski (Terry Kinney). Sadowski's techniques, which he refers to as the "Navy Seals of treatments", involve flooding the individual with his/her fears until some kind of dramatic breakthrough is reached; the problem is Carla's mother was a schizophrenic, and Dr. Sadowski is concerned that her mental state may be irreparably damaged by his daring techniques. Things kick in when a series of suspicious murders begin to occur, and it looks like either Carla, or worse yet, her dead sister, may be the killer.
The story moves fairly effectively between being a traditional thriller as well as some sort of supernatural ghost flick, and if it weren't for a back cover blurb that spills a little too much of the plot I might have actually had more uncertainty as to where things were going. Happily though, Don't Look Down is a television movie that doesn't always look like a television movie (aside from those recurrent fades-to-black for commercials), and there are plenty of sweeping, theatrical-worthy overhead shots during various elevated situations (elevators, parking structures) that invariably send Carla into a paranoid, sweat-covered tizzy. Veteran television director Larry Shaw does a fine job presenting the material, but by the time the easily predictable revelations in the third act are unveiled (thanks back cover blurb!), Don't Look Down had lost some needed momentum.
This film, while maybe low on substance, is not completely without some merit; Megan Ward is particularly noteworthy as the acrophobic Carla, and she contributes a wonderfully scattered, but engaging performance. I enjoyed her character's slow descent, and found it to be well above par for comparable television movie fluff. Character actor Terry Kinney, always so good in supporting roles, manages to put a dark spin on his portrayal of the mysterious doctor.
Slapping Wes Craven's name on the box, to say nothing of using artwork that makes the film look more like a traditional horror film (which it is most certainly NOT) is a poor way to market this just-above-mediocre made-for-television movie. My expectations were for something completely different, and while I wasn't entirely disappointed, I was left with a feeling of having been manipulated into thinking Don't Look Down was going to be something else. The film itself is tolerable as a television movie, but it's hollow ending is nothing short of being the real letdown.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Artisan hasn't dressed up this television movie with a snazzy widescreen transfer, and instead has chosen to release it in 1.33:1. Surprisingly, colors are pretty well saturated and vivid, with natural and lifelike fleshtones. The transfer slips a little with regard to black levels, which are slightly muddy, and the result is that a couple of night scenes lose some detail, and subsequently a little edge. The source print has some noticeable white specks in spots, though not overly distracting.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: One flavor of audio here, and it's an English 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround track. Not a whole lot of aural theatrics on this one, with the fronts carrying all of the action. Dialogue is always clear and discernible, though the lack of any directional imaging in the mix manages to make things a bit flat at times.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Don't look down the menu for any extras, because unfortunately all you find here is the requisite 15 chapter stops. That's all, my friend.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsTacking Wes Craven's name so prominently on the cover art is a tad misleading, considering he only served as Executive Producer here. But moving past that tacky marketing maneuver, we are left with a mediocre television movie that neatly straddles the genre line between a thriller and the supernatural somewhat effectively, until the ultimately disappointing final act. I truly enjoyed Megan Ward's slowly disheveled performance enough to tolerate some of the plot goofiness, but it's still not enough to merit a hearty recommendation.
Rich Rosell 2002-11-13