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When the express elevators in the Millennium Building, one of New York's most famous landmarks, start to malfunction and behave in erratic ways, elevator mechanic Mark Newman is sent out to find the cause of the problems. His investigation meets unexpected resistance and not everybody seems to be happy with his involvement. After a gruesome and deadly incident, in which a blind man falls into the shaft and a security guard is decapitated, the police start an investigation. They are however not very successful. Mark is determined to find the cause. He is joined by a female reporter, Jennifer, who is looking for a juicy story. Together they try to unravel the secrets behind the mysterious behaviour of the elevator that seems to have a life of it's own. When things get worse and death toll rises, The Government, fearing terrorists are involved, seal off the building. What at first looked like a routine job turns into a horrifying nightmare in which Mark has to face an enemy whose blood ... Written by
Satirical horror film and a good example of a decent American remake
Released in the US as The Shaft, this is Dick Maas remake of his own striking debut. 1983's The Lift was a blackly comic chiller about a skyscraper's lift that begins to take the lives of its occupants. This beefed up version keeps the original premise intact, right down to the odd bio-mechanical explanation, but takes place in New York City, pre- 9/11. Beginning with an extravagant pan through the Manhattan skyline and onto the observation deck of the CG rendered Millennium Building, Maas's film looks ever bit as stylish as its $15 million budget would suggest. Given its blockbuster production values its easy to take this absurd movie at face value, but those familiar with the original may recognise that Maas is actually attempting deadpan parody. Slickly directed in widescreen frame, Marc Felperlaan's cinematography complements both the city (which was used only for exterior shots) and the gorgeous art deco production design of the building itself. James Marshall, as the rugged young hero, has something of Christian Slater, Mark Whalberg or Josh Hartnett about him, while his love interest is none other than Naomi Watts, who shortly after became a star in another US-set remake of a foreign classic. In this and that other film she plays a reporter investigating an absurd concept, here a killer lift, there killer videotapes. They are supported by respectable cast of character actors Michael Ironside, Edward Herrman, Ron Perlman and Dan Hedaya. Kicking off the scene with the sounds of Aerosmith's Love in an Elevator, an extravagant race takes place between two incredibly skilled risk takers through New York traffic and into the basement parking garage of the Millennium Building. One of the skaters is then sucked into the lift, in an unexplained supernatural moment, only to be thrown out from the top floor. Bold, inventive and darkly humorous, this brief sequence, which has no dialogue or featured performers present, displays Maas' talent with his rehashed material to the greatest effect. This film was, unfortunately, somewhat prophetic and is laced with unintended irony as a result. Released over two years after the destructive assault on the World Trade Centre, it's not difficult to see why. The very first shot shows us those twin towers, which will forever provoke gasps of remembrance in whatever film they appear, and soon we are in a similar building where horrifying acts are occurring. This seems at first a rather tenuous reason to delay a release, but then the moment arrives when the narrative enlists comments from the fictional President, in which he expresses fear of the occurrences as a terrorist act. This remake is something of a cross between its inspirational text and the likes of high-rise horror's Poltergeist 3 (Gary Sherman, 1988) and The Tower (Richard Kletter, 1993), and is certainly superior in the execution of its novel concept than either The Mangler (Tobe Hooper, 1994) or sequels. The only thing that really lets this film down is the bad language. The F-word is used gratuitously and repeatedly throughout.
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