11th Oct2021

Grimmfest 2021: ‘The Free Fall’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andrea Londo, Shawn Ashmore, Jane Badler, Michael Berry Jr., Elizabeth Cappuccino, Dominic Hoffman, Lorenzo Antonucci, Marc Senter, Madeleine Coghlan, Jackie Dallas, Samuel Davis | Written by Kent Harper | Directed by Adam Stilwell

For his freshman film director Adam Stilwell (The Triangle) teams up with writer Kent Harper, who co-wrote the brilliant Surveillance with director Jenifer Lynch back in 2008, for The Free Fall. A film that feels like something we’ve seen a million times before but one that, ultimately, is something completely unexpected.

A psychological horror, The Free Fall tells the story of Sara (Andrea Londo; Narcos, Superfly) who wakes up to find herself in bed, with vague recollections of her situation and her life. She told by her husband Nick (Shawn Ashmore; X-Men, Frozen, The Day) that he found her in the bath tub having tried to commit suicide following her problems dealing with the death of her parents. Nick insists that Sara rest up and heal, both mentally and physically, even hiring a housekeeper, Rose, played by the ever-awesome Jane Badler (V), to take care of the house while Sara recovers.

However the situation seems too much for Sara, who feels that Rose is plotting against her and is constantly suffering from hallucinations – feeling visited by strangers I her own home, seeing ghosts and ghouls; and in a particularly bizarre scene, finding what looked to be either a spine or part or an intestine buried in the garden – a vine seemingly growing out of it! It’s these weird visions that keep you watching The Free Fall, the very idea of what is real and what is not keeping the audience hooked. Yes, it’s a very familiar trope of psychological horrors but one the works each and every time – even mores when you have a strong cast as The Free Fall does.

Speaking of cast, there’s Shawn Ashmore’s Nick. A man who, at first, seems to be a loving and doting husband but a man who quickly seems to become overbearing and secretive. Is he hiding something? Is it something innocent, trying to protect his wife from any further mental anguish? Or is it something more sinister? Or maybe he’s just a gaslighting arsehole? Again, writer Kent Harper’s script keeps the audience hooked by keep the questions coming. Meaning we want answers. Though it seems, for a long, time, like we’re not going to get them.

Eventually, when the answers do come, The Free Fall takes a remarkable turn. You can see what coming, a dinner party between friends, all acting rather odd… Is it because of the fragility of Sara’s situation or something else? Does the “very special evening” have more in store for Sara? And what’s with that creepy guy hanging around the house. His behaviour echoes that of the creepy preacher in Poltergeist 2 for god sake!

The aforementioned dinner party sees The Free Fall descend into just that. A free fall of madness and oddity, one that elevates the film from typical psychological horror, following a myriad of tropes and cliches we’ve seen before, into something altogether different and altogether more terrifying. Yet oftentimes still we don’t know what’s real – it’s a brilliant quandary, ramping up the suspense and really driving The Free Fall forward. All the while saying a lot about mental health and suicide – from both perspectives – once again showing how horror can be remarkably multifaceted.

And that final denouement, post creepy dinner party… Where the hell did THAT come from? A truly remarkable change of pace and something I don’t think anyone ever would expect.

**** 4/5

The Free Fall screened as part of this years Grimmfest.

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