The Friday Night Horror Movie: Down (2001)


Friday night comes and I need a horror movie to watch. I really want to watch something I’ve not seen before, but scrolling through my current streaming services doesn’t turn up much. I start to put on The Ring (2002) the American remake of the excellent Japanese film Ringu (1988) with Naomi Watts, but I’ve seen it before, and as I said I’m wanting something new. I land on this film which also stars Naomi Watts. It is about an evil elevator in a New York skyrise and that sounds like fun.

Sometimes when you randomly watch something after flipping through the streaming channels you discover something really good. Sometimes, like tonight, you realize you’ve made a terrible mistake.

Down is a remake of a Dutch film called The Lift which is something of a cult classic. Dick Maas directed both of them. I haven’t seen the original but if the remake is anything like it I won’t be bothering with it at all.

It seems to be trying for some sort of blending of horror and comedy but it fails at both. The comedy is broad and bad and not all of the actors seem to understand they should be going for laughs, while others seem to think they are in a Marx Brothers film. It was made just before Watts became a star so while she is featured prominently in all the promotional material she actually isn’t the lead. That role goes to James Marshall who, if you are like me, you’ll stare at for a long time trying to remember where you know him from before you finally look it up and realize he was in Twin Peaks. He plays everything quite straight whereas Naomi Watts seems to have walked in from some SNL skit from the early 1990s. She lays it on thick and broad and sports the worst Brooklyn accent I’ve heard in a while.

The film has great character actors like Dan Hedaya and Michael Ironside, Ron Perlman and Edward Hermann in small roles, all of which seem to be playing in different movies.

This is a movie that begins with two security mooks looking through those tourist telescope things on the observation deck of this big skyscraper. They are looking into the window of a nearby window watching a couple of prostitutes get sexy with some dude. It is played for laughs like it’s one of those low-budget comedies the USA Network used to play on Friday nights. It goes downhill from there.

While the comedy is bad the horror is worse. It builds very little suspense, the deaths are sometimes gruesome but never effective. I’d say it was more of a supernatural thriller instead of horror but it isn’t very thrilling either. In the last 15 minutes or so it does switch from just bad to so-bad-its-good territory but by then I was just ready for it to be over.

As an interesting bit of trivia, the film was scheduled for a 2001 release but then 9/11 happened and for obvious reasons, it got pushed back into oblivion. At some point, they think the elevator mishaps are caused by terrorists. There are actually characters who talk about how Bin Laden tried to take down the twin towers which is now kind of creepy. And that’s about as creepy at the film gets.