ZERO STARS/**** Image C Sound C
starring Megan Ward, Billy Burke, Terry Kinney, Angela Moore
teleplay by Gregory Goodell
directed by Larry Shaw
by Walter Chaw The easy thing to do with the Wes Craven-produced tele-shocker Don't Look Down is to add the addendum "because you'll see this movie at the bottom" to its title. Broadcast on the Hallmark Channel as a zero-budget, zero-thrills bit of particularly fragrant, past-its-sell-by-date cheese, the plot involves TV-movie Ashley Judd-alike Megan Ward (and, indeed, the actress played Ashley in a TV-movie, Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge) as Carla, a woman who's lost her feral hippie sister (Tara Spencer-Nairn--see her now in Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled!) in a freak sight-seeing accident and so develops a bad case of acrophobia.
In truth, she develops a bad case of seeing dead people, but in a classic case of treating the symptoms, she seeks out hack doctor/drill sergeant Dr. Paul (Terry Kinney, the co-founder of the Steppenwolf Theater Company as it happens) and his "Bob Newhart"-ian group of folks afraid of ladders and glass elevators. Soon, members of Dr. Paul's motley crew begin dropping off--literally--one-by-one, as suspicion lollygags around from Dr. Paul to the dead sister to poor, crazy Carla and back again before finally settling on the one character in the film on whom suspicion, suspiciously, never falls.
In summary, Don't Look Down is neither suspenseful nor the slightest bit scary, though it does manage to be incredibly funny--particularly in groups or under the influence of a mild narcotic. I couldn't in good conscience recommend its consumption any other way. Because it's been made for television, there are fade-outs where commercials go and a puritanical squeamishness as it pertains to blood and nudity--the two things one can usually rely upon in even a terrible horror movie to provide a few seconds of prurient interest. Alas, the only comfort of Don't Look Down is that, because it's a Hallmark/Artisan release, the odds are good that there won't be any extras on the DVD to extend the agony.
Indeed there aren't. Artisan's DVD begins with a full-frame video transfer that preserves its broadcast aspect and fails to inspire much in the way of comment, positive or negative. The colours are bright, skin tones look all right, and there aren't any dark scenes, thus shadow detail really isn't much of an issue. The Dolby Surround track is flat and unimaginative, with almost all of the information relegated to the front channels. Disposable stuff all around. Originally published: November 2, 2002.