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When people go on diatribes about remakes and Hollywood’s lack of originality, “Down” is exactly what they’re talking about.

Down

An elevator mechanic gets pulled into a government conspiracy when he’s called to New York City’s Millennium Building after tragic deaths. Let’s dig into 2001’s DOWN (aka THE SHAFT), directed by Dick Maas!

As I See It

Dick “No, Maas!” am I right? Alternately called The Shaft in the U.S. and Down in all other territories (though Shudder has it titled the latter), this is a close remake of Maas’s first feature film, The Lift.

Some irresponsible writing highlights this retread. Instead of taking a second chance to hit a home run with the material he had already learned the ins, outs, and mistakes from, Maas picks low-hanging fruit—the type of misogynistic, typical fruit that was harvested for more than a decade through the late seventies and into the early nineties in the slasher genre.

Unfortunately, an elevator doesn’t pose much of a threat since you can just not ride it. Get the workout in. Take the stairs.

There are a couple of enjoyable scenes, such as the shot-for-shot remake of the asshole security guard losing his head to a falling lift car. The elevator sucking someone in, shooting up to the top, and spitting him out over the side of the building was a nice touch as well.

The gelatinous fuse box ending and the CCTV timestamp being the crux of the story were for the birds, though, as was as the Jurassic World twist where the government is using some bioweapon for militaristic endeavors and testing it out in an elevator before going live.

There are too many films from this era (1998-2008) that don’t give enough effort.

Famous Faces

Naomi Watts (Jennifer Evans) played Rachel in The Ring and its sequel. That should be enough for anyone’s resume, but she’s on the A-list, so she’s had some monster credits, including Peter Jackson’s King Kong, the U.S. remake of Funny Games. She also played Janey-E Jones in the 2017 Twin Peaks series, just to name a few of her genre films.

Michael Ironside (Gunter) has always been the ultimate badass. Whether he is playing Richter in the Arnold version of Philip K. Dick’s Total Recall, Darryl Revok in Cronenberg’s Scanners, or Rasczak in Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. It was a rare occasion to see him not be the big swinging dick of the film and actually have a crying scene. He ceded the badassery to Ron Perlman in this film.

Ed Herrmann (Milligan) was Max, the head vampire in The Lost Boys, and that counts more than most other credits I’ve ever had to cite.

Ron Perlman (Mitchell) IS Hellboy.

Dan Hedaya (Lt. McBain) played Tully in The Addams Family, Cher’s dad in Clueless, and Mr. Butabi in A Night at the Roxbury.

James Marshall (Mark) played James Hurley in Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with Me, and the 2017 series.

This was Ike Barinholtz’ (Niles) first gig. He would go on to Mad TV and is one of the most under-the-radar comedic actors working.

Of Gratuitous Nature

The act of rehashing a story that probably needed a lot of chutzpah added to be worth the time is a gratuitous action to me.

Heartthrob

Naomi Watts would explode shortly after this film with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and the U.S. remake of the terribly scary Japanese horror The Ring. There is a good reason for that, and it goes well beyond her hitting a home run in genetics. She can emote with the best of them, and terror seems to be her sweet spot.

Ripe for a Remake

There is no reason to try again, for a third time. This isn’t baseball.

Spawns

Not every filmmaker gets a chance to take their first film and remake it with (soon-to-be) stars. Dick Maas got that chance, and he dropped the ball. It doesn’t seem like there was any attempt to improve on the original film which to me ends up being a futile exercise.

Where to Watch

Blue Underground released a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack in 2017, which is available from Grindhouse Video. You can stream Down on Shudder, Amazon Prime, and AMC+.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 1.5


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