Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Lift (1983) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The early Eighties saw a lot of horror movies themes around the idea of objects possessed by evil spirits or developing minds of their own. The car in Christine, the television in Poltergeist and the book in The Evil Dead all make a sort of sense, in that there are plenty of reasons why people might interact with them, but how does one make a horror film about a possessed lift? Why don’t people just take the stairs, or use one of the other two lifts right next to it? It’s the classic Jaws problem – if people don’t actively stray into a dangerous situation, nothing bad will happen.
The first half of this Dick Mass trash classic, which resurfaced in 2021 as one of Abertoir’s retrospectives, is dedicated to people straying into dangerous situations for all sorts of ridiculous reasons – most notably, the absence of any warning signs even after the lift is known to be a problem. An obnoxious group of drunken partygoers mysteriously overheat as they ride. Others fall to their deaths or are crushed by the doors. A little girl is tempted by the yawning blackness of the shaft. There’s nothing here that quite competes with Dark Star’s elevator peril sequence, but the entertainment on offer is of a different kind, with the slapdash arrangement of the scenes and awful dubbing (in the English language version) giving it a charm of its own. The characters clearly all hate each other – even the little girl gets hit in the face by her own mother – whilst the hero, a lift engineer, has to cope with a wife who flies into a jealous rage when he so much as speaks to another woman, making his alliance with a glamorous investigative journalist additionally hard work.
The second half of the film follows the engineer and journalist as, finding little to enlighten them in the lift itself, they turn their attention to the shady multinational company behind it. There’s lots of jargon here about artificial intelligence (as it was understood by lay people in the Eighties) and a great speech about how, given an inch, computers will spontaneously develop personalities and seize all available miles. With few deaths in this stretch, the film changes gears, pitching for gritty corporate thriller territory before settling for a prolonged man versus machine climax which most involves the engineer crawling round in the dark performing poorly explained tasks which are quite difficult to see. Fortunately the overblown dramatic music really comes into its own here, filling in those bits of story which might otherwise be hard to follow.
There were a lot of bad horror films made in this era but The Lift is in a different class, and loveably so. For those nights when you want to get drunk on cheap cider with a bunch of your friends and recreate the atmosphere of days gone by, it’s the perfect choice.Reviewed on: 08 Nov 2021