"Take the Stairs, Take the Stairs.
For God's Sake, Take the Stairs!!!"

Honestly, in spite of its tagline, this movie isn't all that bad. Most of the movies in The Other Hell are marked by their general ineptitude in all departments. De Lift, on the other hand, is rather well made. Its director, Dick Maas, has done a number of other reasonably good movies, including Amsterdamned, an action flick about a scuba-diving serial killer in the Dutch canals (this movie used to turn up all the time on premium channels -- side by side with Ice Pirates and Solarbabies). True, the acting in De Lift leaves something to be desired, and the English dubbing results in some rather strage lines:

Reporter: I'm from the Daily Review.
Felix: I see that sometimes in my neighbor's birdcage.
Reporter: Our readers are found in many strange places!

But on the whole, this is a tolerably well-made film. There's really only one major problem with it, which puts it squarely in the Other Hell, amid the Tombs of the Blind Cinematographers and the Curse of the Stone Script: De Lift is about a nasty killer elevator.

Even if you've made the best killer-elevator film ever, there's still the inescapable fact that your premise is JUST PLAIN STUPID. Imagine for a moment that Steven Spielberg (not to mention Peter Benchley) had decided against the whole killer-shark motif, and had chosen a phobia that affects more people in their daily lives -- say, public speaking? Then, instead of Jaws, we might have had


... with maniac podiums chasing people down in the streets and shoving microphones in their faces. Oh, the horror. Yes, it's true that more people have to deal with the fear of public speaking than with actually being attacked by a shark, but somehow the sense of fear it inspires is just a teeny bit less... primal.

How can you build tension when your monster is an elevator? The victims actually have to get into the box, and this is such a common occurance that you can't expect to lend it any atmosphere. We're not talking about an old dark house, or a creepy cemetery that the victims must cross -- we're talking about a drab corporate lobby. The doors open -- the doors close. People die. EEEK!

Let me say it again: De Lift really isn't a bad movie. The photography, the music and the lead actor are all quite good. The script does rather well at establishing the character of the hero, the elevator repairman Felix. We follow him through his rather dull job, then home to the wife and kids of whom he is growing tired. He's one of the least likely charcters you'd ever expect to find at the center of a horror movie, which leads me to wonder: what if the monotony of his job and his marriage have led poor Felix to hallucinate about killer elevators? What if this whole movie is just taking place in the man's mind, as he slips off into permanent daydream?

Maybe, but probably not. Actually, the most disturbing moments of the film have nothing to do with that RIDICULOUS KILLER ELEVATOR. Instead, we cringe most as this decent man watches his life and his marriage crumble before his eyes, for all the wrong reasons.

So what does this have to do with that STUPID, STUPID KILLER ELEVATOR? Absolutely nothing. We have a fair if unremarkable slice-of-life movie that has been swallowed up before birth by its conjoined twin, a thoroughly imbecilic monster movie.

After all, let's face it: once Felix is off screen, the rest of the film is pretty low-rent. We have the usual assortment of cardboard victims and secondary characters. The first to feel the wrath of the Lift are two boorish agro-businessmen and their hookers -- er, dates. The businessmen are caricatures, in a broad Secular Calvinist style ("Harrumph; once a farmer, always a farmer..."). Their girlfriends fare even worse as characters, even for so misogynistic a genre as the horror film. Later victims include a blind man who steps into the empty lift shaft -- now, how did the elevator, which presumably has limited sense organs, know the guy was blind? And anyone who thinks Lenny and Squiggy are strictly an American phenomenon should see the building's maintenance men!

The final act of the film does manage to generate a fair amount of tension -- that is, if the effort of suspending disbelief doesn't prove too much of a strain. Felix goes to confront the hateful machine -- so what does he do when he gets there?

H E   T A K E S   T H E   L I F T !

So it's a little difficult to feel true empathy for the guy. Then later, as he sweatily confronts three lifts which have opened in front of him, we can't help but wonder: why is he so afraid? Does he think they're going to come out of their shafts and after him?

The best scare the movie manages to come up with turns out to be a fraud. It's when Felix is alone in the lift shaft. Suddenly, a hand reaches up to grasp his face! Discerning audience members, who remember that most elevators don't have hands, will have already realized that it is Felix's own hand, reaching up to scratch his nose. It's a fake-out that works rather well in the theatre, but on the small screen, where most of us will be watching De Lift, it loses almost all its impact.

One last note, thinking of Spielberg (see above): Watch the credits. You'll see that technical assistance for the film was obtained from a well-known international firm, the Schindler elevator company. Naturally, that makes the elevator...


Back to the Other Hell