Into the Dark 5: Down


Going Down With Natalie Martinez

Main Cast: Natalie Martinez and Matt Lauria

Director: Daniel Stamm

How better to celebrate Valentine’s Day than stuck in an elevator with a total stranger?  DOWN, Episode 5 of Hulu’s Into the Dark series of movies based on American holidays is one of my favorite kind of stories.  Two people, one location.  This was the appeal of the original SAW movie, and it’s a storytelling device that continues to interest me.

In this case, Jennifer Robbins (the always amazing Natalie Martinez from Under the Dome) and Guy (Matt Lauria from Parenthood) are two people who work in the same building, heading down to the parking garage on a Saturday night, the day before a long Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend off, when the elevator stops and the two soon realize that, if help doesn’t come, they could be stuck there until the building opens back up on Tuesday.

With only half a bottle of water, a bottle of wine Guy received as a gift from a client, and a handful of chocolates Jennifer snagged from the office candy bowl on her way out the door, the two try to make the best of the worst situation they’ve ever been in.

They know someone will have to come eventually, there is a security guard on duty somewhere in the building, so they choose not to panic and instead use the time to get to know each other.

They open the wine, laughing when they discover they both carry corkscrews with them, they draw pictures of each other while Guy admits he lied earlier when he pretended not to know Jennifer. Truth is, he’s seen her in the building a few times and thought she might be someone he’d like to know.

They record each other with Jennifer’s phone, swapping sex stories, and Guy even solves Jennifer’s bathroom problem by suggesting she pee in her empty thermos.  He retreats to a neutral corner, turns his back, closes his eyes and covers his ears.

The two are hitting it off very well, and at this point I have to stop synopsizing because ANYTHING else I say is going to set off super ultra major spoilers and it’s best, if you plan to see DOWN–which I recommend–you do it not knowing what happens next.

Suffice it to say, this story from first-time scripter Kent Kubena, is full of twists and turns, keeping your attention for the full 81 minutes.

Director Daniel Stamm (THE LAST EXORCISM) handles the single location very well (truth be told, I’m pretty sure this elevator is a good deal larger than any I’ve ever seen, but I’ve never seen the elevators in Trump Tower in Chicago, the location used as the exterior for this office building), giving us a sense of isolation and desperation, but never making us feel claustrophobic, which works here because claustrophobia is one of the things the characters address upfront, assuring the viewer, and each other, that neither of them suffer from it.

Natalie Martinez projects a stern professionalism in Jennifer, but allows her to be open and vulnerable without coming across as weak, while Lauria’s portrayal of Guy is someone just getting started in the world of big business, trying to make an impression without coming across as too arrogant or self-centered.

And again, all of this is act one stuff, I can’t go into act two, and God forbid act three, without just ruining the whole movie for you.

I very much enjoyed DOWN, and not just because Natalie Martinez is in pretty much every scene.  I loved the concept, while not wholly original (see DEVIL), enjoyed the characters, and once things started going down, the tension never let up.

IF I had to find a negative amongst all of this goodness, it would be one very minor plot element that was left unaddressed, and probably with very good reason.

When Jennifer has to pee, the solution Guy comes up with is the empty thermos in her bag.  Problem solved.  But they could very possibly be trapped here for the next almost 60 hours.  And that’s not a very big thermos.  They will, eventually, also have an empty water bottle and an empty wine bottle, but I don’t recall seeing them in the background of any of the shots, and for the sake of suspension of disbelief, at the very least a little set dressing could have answered a few questions the writer in me had about the passage of time in a realistic way trapped in this elevator.  I don’t believe for a second that, all the time they were in there, only one person had to pee, ONE time?

Nah, man.  Don’t think so.

But other than that issue, which shouldn’t even BE an issue, but I AM a writer and I have to approach these stories in terms of how I would handle them, and there are questions a writer has to be able to answer if and when they come up, I really enjoyed DOWN. I didn’t find myself casually on my phone during the slow parts, or dozing off, it held my attention throughout and kept me guessing.  Excellent work.

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