Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Down/ The Shaft

How could you do that to a blind man?

Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs out of 4. Funny as fuck, pity about the first half.

This is an interruption due to sheer dumbness of my scheduled vault reviews. I was going to do Re-Animator (for being awesome), but instead I watched this gem the other night. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is probably one of the most incredibly stupid and incredibly funny films that I’ve seen in the last 6 months. The premise is absolute dumbhouse gold, and the film is executed with such verve that it’s really hard not to like it. I’d just like to point out here that there’s loads of elevator related puns available to me, but I shall be an adult and ignore them.

Honestly, in the future when the hyper-evolved cockroaches take over and they look back to try to work out what 21st Century man was like, they’re going to look at this film, scratch their antennae and just say “Dumbasses, no wonder they went extinct”. How this film got made once, let alone twice, is going to stand as a mystery for all eternity, only bested by how the remake managed to attract Naomi Watts, James Marshall, Ron Perlman and Darth FUCKING Ironside to the cast. Admittedly, Ironside is doing his very best Lance “Cash that cheque” Henriksson impersonation, but even so, it’s completely bizarre that he’s in a part as small as this in a film as dumb as this one.

Back in the 1990’s there was a Dutch film by a lunatic called Dick Maas. This film, which to be honest I haven’t seen, was about a building where the elevators went haywire and killed people. Inexplicably, and it is truly inexplicable, he decided that what the 21st century needed was a new version of this. So, to his credit, he found some cretins willing to stump up the wonga to get it made. The result: 2001’s gloriously stupid Down (The Shaft, if you’re American).

Me, Officer? But Otis did it.

I’m not really sure where to go with this one on a plot summary. I mean, it’s pretty simple, but at the same time hugely stupid and complicated. Spoilers won’t make any difference, so it doesn’t matter, but at the same time it will be extremely difficult to distill the essence of this testament to idiocy. Basically, this is how it works: Michael Ironside plays Gunter Steinberg. Gunter is a genius, but one that has extremely dubious beliefs about (that would invariably result in a Skynet type fiasco) making microchips out of human brain tissue. He was kicked out of the US Army, and now plies his trade for Ron Perlman’s lift company. Perlman has installed Ironside’s brain lift in The Empire State Millennium building in New York. There’s a big electrical storm, and, well fuck me sideways but the lift has taken on a life of its own. This new sentient lift basically wants to fuck people up- so there’s a group of pregnant women traumatised into giving birth, (brilliantly) a blind man AND HIS FUCKING GUIDE DOG dropped down an empty shaft, and a skater fired like a rocket out of the lift and through the safety glass on the observation deck. In the meantime, hapless lift repair technician James Marshall is trying to get to the bottom of it, as is genius investigative journalist Naomi Watts. Eventually Marshall twigs what he has to do and goes Mano-e-Otis armed only with a big knife and a rocket launcher. Darth Ironside, in the meantime, is not likely to be doing any cunt in this film, although he does dish a kicking out to Marshall while screaming some gibberish about THE FUTURE. He should really shut his fucking trap, as we’ve all seen his future: the opening of Terminator.

Almost from the opening of this film you know you’re in for a treat. It opens with two security guards (recurring scumbag characters) looking at two hookers from the observation deck, and damn it, it’s legitimately funny. Unfortunately the rest of the first half can’t live up to this, although the occasional elevator-related incident does liven things up. The problem is, though, that Marshall is doing some sort of blue-colllar Poirot and it isn’t that interesting. Watts, in the meantime, is little more than mildly annoying for most of her time on screen, which sadly is quite a lot.

Naomi hasn't twigged that you can't kill an Elevator with a hand gun. She will, though, oh yes, she will.

Which brings me on to the acting. It’s OK. The Noo Yawk accents are a bit dodgy for most of the cast (Marshall in particular sounds like he’s channeling Christian Slater) but, meh, who cares? Ironside and Perlman are sleepwalking, but this is because the premise is so fucking stupid. I can’t say I blame any actor in this for phoning it in.

There’s no point me going on much longer with this review. Either you want to see it now or you don’t. Personally, I nearly threw up laughing at several points, and partially because Down is played so straight. However, I’m attempting to write criticism of a film about a killer lift, so this really is an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, if you think this may be for you, and it might be, then I do thoroughly recommend it. However, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought “fuck that”.

Words cannot do justice to this. Ironside is trying to stop Marshall from firing his rocket launcher into a lift shaft.

Anyway, I’ve never seen anyone fire a rocket launcher into a glowing pink Brain-cell-computer situated on the wall of a lift shaft from a distance of 1 foot and come away completely unscathed. For that moment of sheer dumbness alone, I say give it a whirl. Down is good fun, and if you can ignore the investigative crap in the first half, well worth a spin.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

22 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Down/ The Shaft”

  1. Spud McSpud says :

    Fucking hell. This sounds GLORIOUS!!

    Jarv, a thousand thanks for finding this. It sounds like Stuart Gordon and The Chiodo Brothers got together with Charles Band and said “I wanna make a movie that makes everything else we’ve ever made lok like CITIZEN KANE. Ideas?”. And somebody said, “Killer lift??”

    Can’t WAIT to see this. Cheers, Jarv!!

    • Jarv says :

      The first half is a bit slow with all the detective work. It’s the sheer nutbusting stupidity of the second- particularly funny is the woman that thinks her dead husband is the ghost running the lift and thrashes about like an imbecile to prove the point. Watts and Marshall just stare at her for a bit, before Marshall says “Well, I don’t think we can get anything else out of her”.

  2. Droid says :

    I’ve looked into my crystal ball and foresee that I will be shown this movie while sitting on a couch in north london nursing a beer to dull the headache.

  3. kloipy says :

    I just can’t wait for the sequel; The Shaft in Africa. Great review as always Mr. Jarv

  4. kloipy says :

    i know, it’s been way too long. but know that Im like a ghost hanging aroung from time to time.
    Kloipette is doing great. just took her for a train ride over the weekend. she loves thomas the train for some reason

  5. just pillow talk says :

    This has been added and duly moved to the front of my queue. High praise indeed….

  6. DocPazuzu says :

    Must… resist… ordering…. this…. movie….



  7. MORBIUS says :

    “You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother–
    (Shut your mouth)
    But I’m talkin’ about Shaft
    (Then I can dig it . . . )

  8. ThereWolf says :

    Yeh, I having this as well.

    I may have seen the original but I can’t remember… Ah, y’know what, I might be getting confused with a film called Out Of Order – another ‘lift’ film.

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