Buy This Film
2001
Rated: R for adult language, graphic violence, intense imagery, and nudity.
Genre: Supernatural Thriller Comedy Action
Directed By: Dick Maas
Running Time: 1:50
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 11/21/05
DVD Features:
Behind-the-scenes featurette
If you like this, try: The Thirteenth Floor, The Mangler, Ghost in the Machine, Chopping Mall, The Toolbox Murders

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THE SHAFT aka DOWN

 

There's nothing like a tale about a man-made machine turning against man that made it and becoming more superior and turning against man. It's another "Frankenstein" allegory, that continues on and on with this preposterous and utterly illogical thriller called "The Shaft". With a mixture of "The Mangler" and "Ghost in the Machine'", there's the psychotic elevator which takes on a mind of its own. With a good director, this would have been a murky, grim, and often frightening tale that touched on claustrophobia, agoraphobia, acrophobia, and taphephobia, but that's not what's given to the audience. Imagine the frights here along the line of Disney's "Tower of Terror", because that's as scary as this ridiculous movie ever really gets. The mood is surprisingly light and airy, and ends up feeling more like an eighties B movie than something that actually intends on telling a story.

There's no atmosphere or nuance and "The Shaft" often plays more as comedy than horror (For what the idea promises, the violence is tame). Imagine my surprise when this happened to be a remake of what looked like a better film. "The Shaft" is a mystery with zero suspense, it's often very goofy and the uncovering of what's actually happening in the building where the elevator is is delivered in a snail's pace with so much padding and meandering character drama. The characters we watch are on-screen for a total of twenty minutes only to be murdered, and you have to wonder what the point is for the padding that takes place. There are so many notable character actors here, and yet nothing is accomplished. There is exposition after meaningless exposition that is all for naught because nothing is truly accomplished. We spend minutes upon minutes on a character before they bite it from the freak elevator, and I was wondering why it took two hours to basically tell this bullshit story that came off as a TV movie more than an actual movie.

And Naomi Watts? Don't worry, this will be our little secret. An elevator goes psycho after being struck by lightning. Don't you hate when that happens? And now it begins offing people. I know, routine stuff, but part of the fun is that the writers can't get the concept right. They offer up a multitude of explanations for the elevator going haywire that are never fully resolved. Was the elevator psychotic before or after the lightning strike? Was the elevator on the brink of being nuts and the lightning released some instinct within it? Is it haunted, or has the computer gone haywire, and if its haunted why the need for the lightning strike allusion? Is it an orgy of ghosts, lightning and a super computer going haywire that's making the elevator act stupid? How is it no one catches on that perhaps the elevators are going nuts even after a man is shot from its pod? It's increasingly ridiculous plot elements and questions that make this experience so grueling.

The president is giving a press conference about a building?! Give me a fucking break. A super computer that is described as almost human can be dismantled by just stabbing at it with a screwdriver? And that makes sense why? A missile launcher is shot in an elevator shaft and the whole building doesn't fall down? In this world, that's all very possible and logical. And with a movie about a freak elevator, there's not much room for improv, so we have the same repeated scenarios. Mysteriously all the events take place in front of an elevator. A person nearly gets their head chopped off, and a bunch of people repeat the same generic lines "What's going on? Did you press the button? I was supposed to get off here! That's not normal. I have to get out! This elevator is going haywire! I have to get out!" After the awfully cheesy climax, everything just ends. And I couldn't have been happier.

Good thing for Watts, that her career only took a boost after this, but sadly not much happened for the rest of the cast. Regardless "The Shaft" is a junky rambling wannabe horror film that's a real endurance test to sit through. Only thing worse than a bad horror film, is a horror film that's not scary.

  • Whether called "The Shaft", or its original title "Down", it still sounds like a porno.
  • In reality, Naomi Watts has a phobia of elevators.
  • Possible sequel names: "The Escalator", "The sliding walkway in airports", "The Trolley".
  • The cover to "The Shaft" bears a striking resemblance to the cover of the American version of "The Ring" with Watts' screaming mug plastered in the background of the title graphic.

 

 

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