Elevator (Stig Svendsen, 2011)
I find myself at something of a disadvantage as I write this review. I have not seen John Erick Dowdle’s Devil, the movie which I assume Elevator is a mockbuster. (Oddly, this is the second mockbuster I’ve seen today, viz. the Terror Trap review, not produced by The Asylum; Quite Nice Pictures, the company who bankrolled this, makes their debut here.) The basic premise is the same, though Elevator doesn’t have the supernatural bent; you get a bunch of disparate people who don’t really like each other all that much and trap them in an elevator.
In this case, we have nine different ones who are on their way up to the penthouse of a midtown office building, where the rarely-seen CEO of a major investment firm, Henry Barton (The Social Network‘s John Getz), is going to be making an announcement. Barton, along with his spoiled-brat granddaughter Madeline (played at various times by the Pace twins, Amanda and Rachel, who have a recurring role on the TV series Weeds), is on the elevator. Three of his employees are also there—Don Handley (3 Days Gone‘s Christopher Backus), who’s brought along his fiancee Maureen (Argo‘s Tehmina Sunny), a local newscaster); Celine Fouquet (La Monja‘s Anita Briem), who works in the cubicle next to Don; and their pal Martin Gossling (Surrogates‘ Devin Ratray). Also along for the ride are George Axelrod (Boston Public‘s Joey Slotnick), a stand-up comic who’s a last-minute replacement for an entertainer who had to cancel; Jane Redding (Paul Blart: Mall Cop‘s Shirley Knight), a major investor with the firm; and Mohammed (The Men Who Stare at Goats‘ Waleed Zuaiter), the building’s security guard. Axelrod is claustrophobic, and is having problems being crammed into an elevator with so many people; while Redding offers him a bit of Dutch courage (which he gratefully accepts), Madeline, who’s the kind of brat you just want to slap senseless every time she opens her mouth, decides to hit the emergency stop button and give Axelrod a scare. Well, girls will be girls, no harm no foul—except that the sudden stop messes with the elevator’s brakes, causing the bunch to be stuck there. Tensions boil to the surface almost immediately; Axelrod has made no secret of his racism, directing barbed comments at Mohammed since he got on the elevator, Jane has a bone to pick with Don, Madeline’s a bitch, Celine is pregnant (and if you’ve ever been, or known anyone, pregnant, you know what that means for being without a restroom for any length of time), and the list goes on. Things get a great deal worse when—I would consider this a spoiler, but it’s in the Netflix plot synopsis, and according to Amazon it’s also part of the jacket copy—the denizens of the elevator discover that one of them is carrying a bomb.
I realize that thrillers, almost as much as the horror movies of which I am so fond, rely on much of their plot advancement coming at the expense of stupid characters making bad decisions. But the characters in this movie are so stupid that… well, I’ll put it this way: it takes them until minute forty-nine of the movie’s eighty-one-minute running time to decide to try opening the doors to find out whether the elevator got stuck in a place where they would actually be able to simply walk out of it. Are you serious? How is that not the first thing that came into someone’s head? And when there are nine heads in the elevator, the problem is nine times worse, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve watched thousands of movies over the course of my life (my quite incomplete spreadsheet lists over 3,500), and in that time, I have turned off less than a dozen without any intention of ever going back and finishing watching them. When this movie hit minute thirty without anyone coming up with that idea, I was sorely tempted. In all honesty, I probably only kept watching for Briem, who’s ridiculously gorgeous, but who may well have the worst agent in the world; every movie I’ve seen her in has been awful. Usually she ends up being a very big fish, acting-wise, in a very small pond, but that wasn’t the case here; Svendsen, a New Jersey-educated Norwegian, assembled quite a cast for this dog, and he still couldn’t manage to get anything good out of it. If you’re going to have a Jew and a Muslim throwing epithets at each other for eighty minutes, you should at least recognize you’re playing to cliché and try to put some sort of interesting spin on it, no? No. At least, not in this case. And yet for some reason I decided to finish the movie in some vain hope that it might get better. More fool me. ½