A formulaic thriller made in 2007, Fall Down Dead has seen the light of day in several foreign markets. The film recently had its U.S. theatrical premiere. Dominique Swain stars as Christie Wallace, a single mother pursued by a psychotic killer. This particular serial murderer has been terrorizing an urban area, leaving his victims so carved up he’s been dubbed the “Picasso killer.” Apparently the police have been clued in to the killer’s true purpose: creating art from body parts of his victims.
The killer, Aaron Garvey, is played with icy effectiveness by veteran actor Udo Kier. His obsession with Christie, a woman whose likeness he has sketched despite never having met her, drives him to continue his murderous rampage. The victims are just practice as he gears up to make Christie his masterpiece. By chance he runs into his ultimate prey, in a dark alley, as Christie is heading home from work. Being Christmas Eve, most businesses have closed their doors. She persuades a very security guard (David Carradine) to let her into an office building.
From there the movie is a straightforward B-movie thriller. Once inside the building, a hysterical Christie convinces the guard to call the cops. A pair of plain clothes policemen shows up just before a city wide power outage. The “Picasso killer” manages to get into the locked building somehow, quickly engaging in a game of cat-and-mouse with the people inside.
Fans of the genre will likely find the movie a bit too derivative of other movies of the same ilk. Even so, the film isn’t without noteworthy aspects. In addition to the always reliable Kier, the late David Carradine has some fun with his goofy night watchman. Dominique Swain turns in solid work, never overplaying her part. She anchors the movie with a well-balanced combination of heroism and realistic fear. Swain is almost always the best part of any film she’s in, with Fall Down Dead being no exception.
Though it breaks no new ground to be sure, director Jon Keeyes keeps the tension high throughout. Considering this is a low budget indie film, the blood and gore effects are excellent. The movie’s biggest weakness is its utter lack of motivation. The reasons for the killer’s interest in Christie are left virtually unexplained. Her daughter, Zoe (Lexi DiBenedetto), factors into the plot too late for the plot twist to make much sense.
Bottom line: Fall Down Dead isn’t an especially inventive addition to the slasher genre, but there are far worse ways to spend ninety minutes. The acting is unusually strong, and the script includes some nice touches of humor. Dominique Swain, despite a long filmography that dates back to 1997 with Adrian Lyne’s Lolita and John Woo’s Face/Off, has not broken through as a major star. She sorely deserves more recognition, as she walks away with every movie that’s lucky enough to have her. Fall Down Dead benefits tremendously from her riveting performance, which is reason enough to check it out.