THE FREE FALL Review - Salem Horror Fest
In their 3.5 Bloody Knife review, E. L. King calls The Free Fall a psychological thriller that took them by surprise with its unique depiction of possession, trauma and modern gothic atmosphere.
Screened and world premiered virtually at Salem Horror Fest director Adam Stillwell's The Free Fall stars Andrea Londo as protagonist Sara, Shawn Ashmore as mild-tempered husband Nick and Jane Badler as unnerving housekeeper Rose. It's a psychological thriller that took me by surprise with its unique depiction of demonic possession and trauma. We often witness possession narratives from the perspective of those closest to the stricken individual, but as Sara wakes from a coma to a life she doesn't remember, we get a look inside a possessed woman's mind under the influence of evil entities determined to take her soul.
The film doesn't want for gore, mind games, sinister scares or an eerie gothic atmosphere. My eyes widened with delight as the story, written by Kent Harper, immediately drew me in with a shocking, grisly and tragic murder-suicide before we awaken with Sara a year in the future amidst the aftermath of her own suicide attempt as her devoted husband cares for and gaslights her. In his feature directorial debut Stillwell paints a warm yet ominous atmosphere with no shortage of mystery and bloody flashbacks before a stunning final act that delivers not only an intriguing monoloque on cannibalism, but surprises and delights revealing Sara has been inhabited by multipe demons feasting on her anquish. This life she can't remember is a locked-in fever dream she must fight to escape.
While the title doesn't seem to fit the narrative, it all comes full circle in the end. The house itself is not a shelter, but a prison that Sara is bound to, but it provides a lushious background for the insidious undertones at play. The most sinister character is that of housekeeper and caretaker of the house that Sara inherited from her parents. Rose, who seems envious of the life Sara has and can't recall is a matronly and disapproving figure who clearly has a distain for Sara. She certainly gave me a fright in nearly every scene she inhabited and succeeded in being intriguing yet altogether unlikable.
What's perhaps most haunting about the film is it's modern gothic set design and costumes. Nick and the housekeeper are often seen in dark and forboding ensembles while Sara inhabits flowing white nightgowns that provide an innocent symbolism for her fragile mental state. Nick gifts her with a vibrant red gown to wear to a dinner party he's hosting to celebrate their return to matrimonial harmony in the final act. The gown feels like a play for dominance as Sara's mental fortitude strengthens. In losing his grip on her, Nick's calm facade unravels revealing a thirst for blood and violence and his true nature.
The Free Fall was a mesmerizing nightmare and a refreshing twist on a theme that has been explored several times in horror. It also boasts incredible performances and Londo is brilliant as doe-eyed, lost and bewildered Sara. I found several moments in the film to be somewhat reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining as the house became claustrophoic and the demeanor of the characters shifted. As the film came to an end and looking back on it now, I'm left wondering, can we ever truly escape our demons?