Elevated (1997) Movie Review

Canadian filmmaker Vincenzo Natali burst onto the movie scene with the release of “Cube”, but has since moved onto bigger (although not necessarily better) things ala the big-budgeted “Cypher”. “Elevated” is a 1997 short film by Natali, running 20 minutes total, with 3 of those minutes saved for end credits. It’s definitely a creative short, with the type of personalities clashes that made “Cube” memorable.

“Elevated” stars Natali regular (and high school chum) David Hewlett as Hank, a security guard in a lush condo. When we first see Hank, he’s running through the condo’s underground garage, yelling at nervous tenant Ellen (Vicki Papavs) and the shady Ben (Bruce McFee) to hold the elevator that they’re about to step out off. Hank bursts into the elevator and immediately uses his access card to send the elevator up to the highest floor. His reasoning? Monsters are chasing him. But even more suspicious, Hank is packing a switchblade and there’s blood — although not his — all over his clothes.

And that is the entire plot of “Elevated”. The script by Karen Walton (“Ginger Snaps”) quickly sets up the situation, getting to the point at furious speeds. That leaves the rest of the short to Natali’s cameras, which whirls around the small confines of the reflective elevator as Hewlett, McFee, and Papavs clashes, their natural and instinctive personalities coming through in confrontational — and violent — spurts.

Of the three main roles — aside from the trio, a dozen extras appear at the end — the plum role has to be Hewlett’s. Running on fumes of off-the-charts excitement and the aura of sheer madness, Hank barely manages to get out that a monster of some sort (possibly an alien — “like in the movies”) is after him, and that they must get to the highest floor in order to pin the roof of the elevator and keep the monster/alien from getting to them via the access hatch. Is he crazy? Probably. And who could blame the no-nonsense Ben or the neurotic Ellen for thinking so? This guy looks, sounds, and feels out of his mind.

As a self-contained story, “Elevated” has the vibe of a “Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits” episode on steroids. Natali and company packs a lot into the 17 minutes they have to work with, coming up with a surprisingly accomplished piece of suspenseful fiction. As to the existence of the monster or alien, the answer is never clear until the very last minute, when a shell-shocked Ellen finds herself back in the underground parking garage with the elevator doors opening.

It’s easy to see how Natali went from this short to the feature-length “Cube” without nary a hiccup. The two stories are very similar, involving limited space and creative use of, for the most part, a singular set piece. And as is the case with all successful shorts, the finale of “Elevated” leaves you wishing there was more.

Vincenzo Natali (director)
CAST: Vicki Papavs …. Ellen
Bruce McFee …. Ben
David Hewlett …. Hank