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Saturday, May 28, 2011

FALL DOWN DEAD -- DVD review by porfle

Here's another slasher flick with a slice of that cheesy 80s vibe, like one of those worn VHS cheapies you might've rented out of curiosity at the local Mom 'n' Pop video store.  But that old nostalgic feeling is fleeting, and for the most part FALL DOWN DEAD (2007) is just a dreary bore.

It begins with your standard parking garage stalk-and-slash as an unfortunate woman fails to elude the Picasso Killer's deadly razor.  Then we meet some uninteresting detectives, the troubled Stefan (Mehmet Günsür) and his happy-go-lucky partner Lawrence (R. Keith Harris), wearily staking out a van on Christmas Eve.  Finally, there's young, blonde Christie (Dominique Swain), who saves the money she makes in a coffee shop so she and her daughter Zoe can move to the country.

Walking home one night, Christie happens upon the Picasso Killer dispatching his latest victim in a dark alley.  When he sees her, he flips out--she's just what he's imagined as the perfect finishing touch to his artistic masterpiece, which we never really learn much about.  In fact, unlike the trash gore classic PIECES in which the killer's crazy agenda actually meant something, the whole "Picasso" angle is so negligible to the plot that it's there merely to give Udo Kier's maniac something to yak about while he's fixating on Christie.

Christie escapes and seeks refuge in a mostly-empty office building, with only old security guard Wade (David Carradine) and a few stragglers as company.  Wade manages to call the police before the power goes off due to a blackout, and Stefan and Lawrence show up to offer their dubious assistance.  With both cell phones and police radios conveniently out of commission, the group is now under attack by Picasso for the rest of the film as he kills anyone who stands between him and Christie.

After this passable start, the padding and dragging out of FALL DOWN DEAD's meager plot begin.  These include the usual false jump scares and the "suspense" sequences with potential victims creeping around for long periods of time as we're pounded by clangy music that's supposed to set our nerves on edge.  The good guys, of course, are incredibly stupid--after locking the front doors of the building, nobody bothers to check the back door, which Picasso strolls through undetected.  Later, Det. Lawrence runs into someone who works in the building, tells her she'll be safe as long as she's with him, and then immediately leaves her alone.  Throughout the film, the contrivances these characters go through in order to keep arbitrarily putting each other in danger are amazing. 

Picasso is never portrayed as cunning or scary enough to make us afraid of him when he's offscreen.  He's barely developed as a character at all--he's just this guy walking around slashing people with a straight razor and babbling to his victims about how they're going to be a part of his masterpiece.  Udo Kier (ANDY WARHOL'S DRACULA, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN) does give off a naturally creepy vibe, especially when his eyes are lit just right, and there's one genuinely chilling scene in which a woman opens the door expecting to find one of the cops standing there only to confront him instead.  But Picasso isn't really much of a boogeyman--most of the time, he's no more frightening than the usual maniac killer on HAWAII FIVE-O.

Bland direction and murky lighting and photography augment the film's cheap-80s look, along with a few graphic gore makeups, gratuitous nudity, and some really bad dialogue and acting.  Even big-name David Carradine, who's back in EVIL TOONS mode again and not taking a second of it seriously, is pretty awful here.  (The most notable thing about his presence in this flick is the ironic nature of his character's fate.)  Kier seems to be doing his best, but he just isn't stalker material.  As Christie, Dominique Swain goes one-on-one against the dumb script, wrestling with some horrible dramatic dialogue and emoting her head off as though her life depended on it. Only her final confrontation with Picasso generates any excitement, and even this is standard stuff.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in  1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in Engish and Spanish.  The sole extra is a DVD trailer. 

A downbeat and vaguely depressing experience, FALL DOWN DEAD just gets dumber and dumber, and more boring, as it goes along.  Nostalgia aside, sometimes those 80s slasher flicks were best left on the shelf.

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