Malevolent Ascent (2010) – By Duane L. Martin

A group of people are riding together in an elevator when a disaster strikes.  The nature of the disaster is never clear, though later in the movie it’s hinted at that it was something that happened on a global scale.  The mental asylum they’re in is trashed by whatever happened, and the elevator they’re in plummets down to the lower levels.  The survivors, being about four levels underground, suddenly find themselves having to climb up through the rubble of the destroyed building in an attempt to escape and save their own lives.  Unfortunately, one of the survivors was an unbelievably insane patient there who was being transported in a straight jacket.  The guy used to be a doctor, but then went totally nuts and started killing people, writhing around on severed limbs in his basement, etc…  The police arrested him and he ended up institutionalized.  Now he’s loose, and the survivors of the elevator disaster now have to struggle for their lives on two fronts, as the crazy doctor is hunting them down and killing them one by one.  Will anyone manage to escape?  That’s the question.

This film was made by Dave Wascavage.  I’ve known Dave for a long time now, and I’ve reviewed all of his previous films.  When he sends me a film, I know what to expect from it before he even sends it to me.  He does his own CGI and music and his films have a certain look, acting style, etc….  This film was no exception.  It had all the usual looks and styles I’ve come to expect from his films, but unfortunately, this one just didn’t work for me, and here’s why…

The poor quality of the acting was the primary thing that made this film not work for me.  Unfortunately, the cast just didn’t carry the story well and mostly sounded like they were reciting written dialogue.  I didn’t find any of them believable, and the psycho doctor came off more like a cartoon character than a psycho killer, which brings me to my second problem with the film.  It was that guy.  He just wouldn’t shut up!  I’d have paid cash money if that guy would have just shut up for two seconds, but every time he was on the screen, he was spouting more ridiculousness, and the character, as written and directed, totally missed the mark and just didn’t work as a psycho killer type of a character.  This however was not actor Damien Colletti’s fault, as this was specifically how he was instructed to play his role in this film.  I can’t really fault him personally for the annoying qualities of his character, as he was only acting out the character as he was directed to.

The other problem with the character is, he’s a pretty skinny guy.  I can’t believe some of those bigger guys that survived didn’t just break him in half and get it over with so they could focus on getting themselves out of there.  Too many of his victims just laid there and let him do whatever to them without putting up much of a fight.  The film also spent too much time focusing on him trailing them through the rubble and killing people once he woke up and got out of his straight jacket.  Seeing far less of him and having him lurking in the shadows silently waiting for his opportunities to spring out to grab people and kill them would have created a far better sense of tension than just having the guy in everyone’s face all the time spouting nonsense.  Having him on the screen and yapping so much really made the film feel like it was dragging at times as well, because he just kept spouting the same kind of stuff over and over again.  If he had been more of a silent stalker, the tension would have removed any sense of drag and kept things exciting.

Now, despite those problems, there were some things in this movie that worked quite well.  The general look of the film and the environments the characters had to work their way through looked really good.  There was a lot of debris they had to climb through, and while one section generally looked like another, it really had the look of a building that had been trashed.  Something else that impressed me was how far Dave’s come with his CGI work over the years.  While not overly realistic looking, this film had perhaps some of his most complex CGI work to date.  I can only imagine how long it took him to put some of those scenes together, especially the one where the elevator is falling through the shaft and all the rubble is following it down.

The technicals of the film were quite good from a film making perspective.  The lighting was good (though there was inexplicably one area that had red lighting), the sound was clear and clearly audible throughout, and it was edited well.  The CGI was nicely integrated into the live action and the various environments, and even though it’s not very realistic looking, helped to tell the story well.

Malevolent Ascent is another step in Dave Wascavage’s journey as a film maker.  In this case, it was unfortunately more of a stumble, but everything we do in life is a learning experience, and hopefully Dave won’t hate me too much for not digging this particular film.  I personally enjoy his comedies far more than his serious films, and hopefully he’ll take that to heart and get back to his roots in the future, because the goofy, fun stuff like Zombies By Design, Fungicide and Suburban Sasquatch are really his forte.

You can find out more about this film and Dave’s previous films at the Troubled Moon Films website.