The Shaft (2001)

Rating: C-

Dir: Dick Maas
Star: James Marshall, Naomi Watts, Eric Thal, Michael Ironside

Originally made in 2001, as Down, but shelved after 9/11, the delay proved a boon, as then-unknown actress Naomi Watts hit stardom in The Ring, also playing a journalist investigating techno-horror. One cynical retitling and a couple of years later, it creeps out – and remains a ludicrous idea. Not that this is necessarily bad, but it is still about a pissed-off elevator. Yes, you read that right. A remake of Maas’ Dutch film, De Lift, it benefits from 18 years improvement in effects. As in the original, the ‘attacks’ are the highlight, and the movie comes across a bit like Jaws in a skyscraper, the landlords unwilling to close the, building, for financial reasons.

The weakest link is Marshall, who fails entirely to convince as the lift engineer for the building. He uncovers an ex-Army scientist (Ironside), responsible for a somewhat obscure plot to implant dolphin brains in elevators. Or something like that. Post-9/11, it occasionally makes for uncomfortable viewing: the US President blames terrorists for one incident, and a jokey aside about Bin Laden now seems creepier than most of the movie. Could have done with more Ironside and Ron Perlman (the elevator company owner); their few scenes demonstrate perfectly why Marshall was left in the dust of his co-star. Still, can’t hate any film with an evil kindergarten teacher called Ilsa.