Don’t Look Down at LFF: underdelivers in nearly every conceivable way
I don’t want to do a David Ehrlich and thrash a small independent movie to death, but Don’t Look Down is, it has to be said, genuinely awful. Combining bargain-basement neon visuals with an unrealistic script, pointless plot and painful acting, it’s a film that underdelivers in nearly every conceivable way.
The first thing we notice about Don’t Look Down is how artificial it looks. Manuel Marmier’s cinematography emphasises a wilfully obtuse and obnoxious neon lighting design and set by Clara Noël. Oversaturated to the point of comedy and looking like somebody tried to make a Refn picture on an iPhone, Don’t Look Down feels painfully unrealistic from the start. No apartment looks like this – is lit like this – and lighting it like this doesn’t make the film look better, it just makes it look cheap.
The second thing we notice about Don’t Look Down is how nonsensical it is. As the film begins, we see five protagonists enter the set one by one – it gradually transpires that there is a sixth person in the apartment who has somehow wronged them all. It’s unclear how he got to the apartment, and what they’re doing with him – each member of the group enters his room at some point, although we never find out why. Think about how ridiculous all that is for a second. The threat that hovers over all of this is that the five protagonists are going to kill the sixth, unseen person – although they only talk about the situation in hushed, enigmatic tones which make it impossible to actually make out what is going on and why. By the end of the film, still, nothing has been resolved .
The third thing we notice – and it comes at roughly the same time as the second – is how artificial the script is. This story, by necessity, assumes that all these people have met, have decided to kill a common enemy, have somehow managed to capture him, and are about to kill him. But the script acts as if they’re complete strangers who have never met before – relaying each of their personal, dull stories in yawn-inducing detail as if they don’t already know. Confusingly, they refer to each other as strangers at several points – although this is impossible.
The way these people converse is deeply unrealistic – I’ve never heard anyone speak the way they speak – and their actions are nonsensical. Here we have a group of people about to murder another person, and about a quarter of Don’t Look Down’s runtime is composed of them telling us how hungry they are, or actually making/eating food. What the fuck? Likewise, when we find out the wrongs that our John Doe has actually committed, it seems kind of… you know…. unwarranted to dispose of him – nothing he’s done seems really so egregious as to warrant more than a telling off. Stabs at politically relevant/LGBT statements are mostly silly or trite – such as condemning the word ‘motherfucker’ for being misogynistic, or simply just stating that LGBT people have it hard in society.
The fourth thing we notice, and the thing which cements Don’t Look Down as a real disaster, is the hammy acting on display. Every single performance (all by debut actors or those mainly in films the directors have previously made) in the film is an exaggerated, drama-school-esque show of amateur excess – it’s unclear whether the terrible script is to blame for that, or whether the acting really is that bad.
Don’t Look Down looks bad, makes no sense, flaunts an unrealistic, wince-inducing script, and features an almost constant stream of poor acting. As said at the start, I really don’t like to hate so hard on small, independent films, but I struggle to come up with something positive to say about this one. At least Karelle & Kuntur’s electronic score features a few nice beats.