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Don't Look Down
cast: Megan Ward, Terry Kinney, Angela Moore, and Billy Burke

director: Larry Shaw

86 minutes (12) 1998
Prism Leisure DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
Somewhat belatedly winning a DVD release, this is one of a batch of 'Wes Craven presents...' features, a TV movie combining Hitchcockian drama with ominously supernatural elements.

Carla (Megan Ward, who played the heroine of Bryce Zabel's sci-fi TV show, Dark Skies, 1996-7) tragically loses her younger sister Rachel in a cliff top accident, and her troubles coping with grief result in acute acrophobia (a fear of falling). Unable to continue working as a TV news interviewer, Carla seeks help from psychologist Dr Sadowski (Terry Kinney), whose experimental treatment involves exposure to heights (a rope bridge, tower block roof walkabout, and finally a bungee jump!) in an escalating process designed to 'force' his patients to overcome the debilitating phobia.

Even though one of the acrophobics' self-help and support group has fallen prey to counter-phobia, and overcompensates by getting employment alone as a high-rise window cleaner, the therapy begins to work for Carla and the other patients. And yet our troubled heroine is haunted by disturbing visions of her dead sister, as a little girl, and as an adult - leaving physical evidence of her ghostly presence in Carla's house. Breaking point arrives when some patients from Dr Sadowski's group start dying, one by one, and Carla appears to be next on the list...

I won't give away the whole plot, but if you've seen one Hitchcockian thriller you have seen them all, and those familiar with this particular genre formula (death, apparently supernatural weirdness, suspicion, inquiry, discovery, confrontation, violent crisis, and final revelatory twist) will easily guess the story's denouement after less than 20 minutes. Don't Look Down is a more than adequate example of this sort of material. As Carla, Megan Ward makes for a likeable and attractive heroine: vulnerable at first, but steadily gaining psychological strength and much needed independence, she becomes the leader of Sadowski's acrophobic patients group as the plot unfolds. We're rooting for her all the way, as we're expected to.

When the anticipated mortal peril finally looms large, contradicting all of Carla's assumptions about the circumstances of her sister's death, there is a minor surprise or two, and some tension, but only the amount of excitement you might reasonably expect from a TV movie. The climax simply isn't as nerve-wracking as it needs to be for this drama to properly distinguish itself from all the countless others of its kind. Well produced, on a modest budget, this is an entertaining timewaster, but nothing more than that.

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