Fall Down Dead
by Jef Burnham
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Fall Down Dead, coming to DVD on June 14, 2011 from Image Entertainment, is not quite a horror movie and not quite a thriller, but it’s not for lack of trying on the filmmakers’ parts. A lousy script, an over-reliance on a cliché horror movie soundtrack, and a stylistic ambivalence to the film’s own killer make Fall Down Dead a truly painful viewing experience.
It’s Christmas Eve and the female inhabitants of… some city are prey to “The Picasso Killer,” so called because he uses the removed portions of his victims in his artwork. Of course, so far as I could tell, no one is preview to that fact save for the screenwriter himself, but whatever. To make matters worse for said stalked citizens, the city is also plagued by convenient, rampant power outages that find a hard-working single mother, two police officers, a dopey security guard, and a handful of others trapped in an office building with The Picasso Killer.
The film’s first major failure at establishing suspense comes in the revealing of the killer, at first seemingly by accident, in the film’s opening moments. While the killer’s accent in the first scene immediately betrays the casting of Udo Kier in this particular role, a shot in the struggle between the killer and his victim clearly reveals that it is indeed Kier. Moreover, he happens to be filmed in the least threatening manner possible. This is a by-product of the film’s thoroughly unimpressive cinematography, which is, for the most part, wholly bereft of any stylization that might turn this into a horror film. Thus, rather than employing any number of simple aesthetic conventions to create a genuinely creepy movie, the filmmakers rely on generic droning music and the presence of Kier alone to do the work for them. And unsurprisingly, it fails.
In addition, one can hardly connect with characters who so consistently act like buffoons in the face of such a minor threat as the The Picasso Killer; and David Carradine makes one of his final appearances in an unwarranted and wholly unfunny “comic” relief role. The best thing I can say for the film is that you’ll likely get a few good laughs out of star Dominique Swain’s incessant screeching and head-bobbing.
For more, read the 2009 review of Fall Down Dead by FilmMonthly’s Sanela Djokovic here.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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