My language? Do you hear that, he’s worried about my language. We’re hanging here squeezed like fucking sardines 50 floors up and my language is the problem?
You know, in this section before I go into the plot I like to talk about my previous experiences in films, whether positive or negative, and until about five minutes before I wrote this sentence I was struggling with what to write, but then I saw the movie poster that appears on the right hand side of your screen.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen a movie poster which is false or lying. There was a film called “Hardwired” several years ago with Val Kilmer where the character appears considerably different on the cover to what they do in the film. On the cover he looks like he did in the height of his popularity, but in the film he looks like an overweight alcoholic, but even then that doesn’t compare with the shambles going on in this poster.
I don’t even know where to begin with this poster so let’s go with the most obvious, that woman who takes up probably 1/3 of the poster isn’t actually in the movie. The film has precisely eleven characters in it, two of which are only in it for a few minutes, and she isn’t one of them. I don’t know who she is, but she isn’t a character from this film.
Secondly, there is a hand reaching out of the elevator to symbolise that someone is trying to keep her in there by dragging her back in, this doesn’t happen in the film. Out of those 11 characters, 9 are trapped in the elevator and there is nothing keeping them in there other than the simple fact that they’re in between floors. Infact, even the antagonist, if you can call her that, wants to get out of there and admits that she doesn’t want the others to be in there either.
And then we finish with the subtitle at the bottom, this and the picture above indicate that this is a horror film that will scare you. It’s not a horror, it doesn’t try to be a horror film and I don’t know what film whoever wrote the subtitle was watching, but it certainly wasn’t this film.
Anyway, after that mini-rant, onto the plot.
Henry Barton (Getz) is throwing a party in which he intends to announce he is retiring. He and his grand-daughter Madeline (Rachel and Amanda Pace) enter an elevator filled with his party guests. Madeline soon becomes annoyed by racist comments made by George (Slotnick) and she decides to antagonise his claustrophobia by hitting the emergency stop button.
All efforts to get the elevator moving again fail and they are forced to wait for maintenance to arrive. As time passes the group discusses various things before Jane Redding (Knight), the wife of an investor into Barton’s company reveals her husband shot himself when the investment failed. Barton insincerely apologises and Jane launches into a rant that causes her to have a heart-attack and subsequently die, but not before she manages to utter that she has a bomb.
The group starts panicking and after investigating they find that it wasn’t an empty threat and she has an explosive device attached to her waist. The group must hurry to try and escape as there is no timer on the bomb and it could go off at any minute, but it turns out to be hard to work as a team when issues such as racism and infidelity arise.
I did actually enjoy Elevator. For this review I watched it for the first time in at least two years and I still enjoyed it as much as the first (and only) time I watched it. I love that it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. It is a low budget thriller and despite having just one set for the majority of the film and a confined space to work in, I think they pulled off a great job.
The strength of any film is the characters, it’s one of the reasons that the Hobbit trilogy was received in such a luke-warm manner. As I mentioned in my breakdown of 2014, there were thirteen dwarves that are central to the storyline of the trilogy and you learn precisely nothing about most of them, and the worst part is that they killed off the ones that they did actually take time to develop. I couldn’t care less about the dwarves in the trilogy because over the space of around 8 hours in total, they don’t develop at all.
In Elevator there are nine central characters and the focus shifts between them throughout, but each develops really well. None of the characters start off as what they started as, which is very rare. For example, Henry Barton starts off as a generally nice and friendly man but he soon turns into an unpleasant person as he defends selling an investment that everyone knew would fail. Martin (played by the guy who was Buzz in the Home Alone films) starts as someone who kisses everyone’s arse but soon drops that and plays the blame game. Even George (Slotnick) starts off as incredibly racist, especially towards Mohammed, but by the end he is surprisingly playing the peace-maker between everyone.
Each character transformation isn’t forced and the best part is that if you look out for it at the beginning one you’ve seen the film once, it’s obvious that some of the characters have an agenda or a antagonistic history with each other, which probably helps the transition from one personality type to another.
The one thing that you always need to be careful of in a film of this nature is not over developing a single character to the point where they stand out above the rest, almost to the point where you almost don’t want them to survive. Elevator did a great job of developing a character slightly each time before moving on, you can digest it easily and appreciate it more. Only one of the characters, Mohammed, isn’t developed as much as the others, mainly because he’s stood at the back for most of the film, but other than that the characters seemed to be given a relatively equal share of the development time.
For me one of the best aspects for the character of Madeline. It’s extremely rare to have a child in a film and not have them single handedly ruin it for you, for example, War of the Worlds would have been a thoroughly enjoyable film had it not been for Dakota Fanning. Whenever I see a child on screen and know they’re going to be a major part in the film, it fills me with dread because they’re usually just awful, but not this time. The Pace sisters did an excellent job of portraying Madeline and for me the best part was that the character wasn’t at all what I had predicted.
She is the cause of the elevator getting stuck and as she sees the mayhem around her, especially after one character’s arm becomes severed, she enters a state of shock as she admits to herself that she caused all of what is happening and she reacts in a refreshing way. She doesn’t scream her head off Dakota Fanning style, she doesn’t cry (well, not much anyway) and isn’t actually an irritant. She effectively has a mental breakdown and sits there rocking back and forth, repeating herself. It was a genuine reaction. It was so refreshing to not hate a character that’s a child, so refreshing.
Another refreshing part for me was that this wasn’t a blood bath and the body count is extremely low. Out of the 11 characters that are on screen in the film, only two actually die and one of them is only because he couldn’t fit through the Elevator door at the end and gets caught in the explosion.
In most films of a similar nature you are just bombarded with a high body count and you stop generally caring, but this wasn’t like that and I had to use this word again, but it was refreshing.
In many ways it’s a shame that they have chosen to use that poster (it’s different on the DVD cover in the UK) because it would give anyone who saw it in a store the wrong impression of what the film was about, because it is far better than the film gives it credit for.
If you get a spare 90 minutes or so, sit back and enjoy Elevator.