Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: The Lift (aka The Elevator)
Genre: Murderous Machines
Tagline: Take the stairs, take the stairs. For God’s sake, take the stairs!!!
Released by: Media Home Entertainment
Director: Dick Maas
Plot: An elevator in an office building starts injuring and killing the residents and staff. Felix, an inquisitive maintenance mechanic investigates the problem and discovers that the lift’s builder has been conducting evil experiments with MICROCHIPS.
Thoughts: As much as we enjoy the many conveniences of modern technology, deep down we all know that it’s only a matter of time before the robots kill us and take over the planet. Once a machine starts thinking for itself in a B-movie, that’s when the shit really hits the fan! In 1977’s The Car, a black Lincoln driven by possibly Satan himself terrorizes the residents of a small Southwestern town; Jim Wynorski’s eighties classic, Chopping Mall features a malfunctioning trio of security “Killbots” that hunt and murder a group of partying mall kids; and Stephen King’s cocaine induced epic, Maximum Overdrive has every single machine on earth turning against us, with Emilio Estevez leading a band of survivors held up in a gas station.
Somewhere crammed in that timeline was a movie about an elevator that goes nuts and starts offing a few folks. It’s called The Lift and it’s fucking incredible. The film was made in Holland in the early eighties and it’s obviously dubbed, giving it that extra special quality that makes its ridiculous plot play all the more cheesy.
It opens on a rainy night as a foursome of obnoxious party goers abuse the restaurant staff of the hi-tech Icarus office tower. The drunken quartet eventually makes their way to a sleek bay of Kubrickian-styled elevators. Choosing the middle lift, they soon find themselves trapped between floors as a lightning bolt strikes a power circuit on the building’s roof shutting off the power. One couple begins to panic as the other couple starts to undress and make love. Finally, the power is restored, but something about the lift has changed. It activates the heating system and almost suffocates the four helpless fools before the security team releases them just in the nick of time. One thing’s for sure, something’s up with the lift.
Enter Felix Adelaar (Huub Stapel), an elevator repairman who lives in an impossible-to-afford home with his gorgeous wife and children. He checks out the circuitry, but can’t find any problems with it. Later, a blind man who has just purchased an apartment for his 92-year-old mother to live in is tricked by the evil lift and plunges to his death in the elevator shaft. Then it decapitates a security guard. The cops are called in, but the head detective wants to wrap things up fast so he can go on his upcoming vacation, which prompts Felix to team up with a nosy-yet-sexy female reporter to get to the bottom of these mysterious “accidents”.
Through some investigating they learn that the lift company’s electronics partner has been conducting evil experiments with… MICROCHIPS. Yes, MICROCHIPS. They have MICROCHIPS that are made of protein and they can self-reproduce. Sometimes these MICROCHIPS become unstable. According to the professor who gives them this information, one day we’ll all have MICROCHIPS in our brains to better control our behavior.
Unfortunately, Felix’s boss doesn’t want him nosing around with the electronics company and he puts him on a forced leave of absence. Then Felix’s wife leaves him and takes the kids with her. This drives Felix into a final showdown with the lift. He tries to destroy the very inconveniently placed control panel that contains its slime covered MICROCHIP! The lift nearly crushes his body, but the reporter lady saves him and the head of the electronics company shows up out of nowhere and fires a clip into the control panel destroying the MICROCHIP… or does he? Before you can say MICROCHIP the lift has telekinetically wrapped an elevator cable around the electronics company CEO’s neck and hangs him to death in the shaft. The surviving couple takes the stairs down as the credits roll over.
Okay, so the fact that this film was made with one hundred percent sincerity is beautiful to me. It’s an absolutely ludicrous plot that is treated with complete seriousness on every level. The acting, editing, photography and effects are all top-notch for sure and who knows, maybe this wonderful little piece of Dutch exploitation trash will make you think twice and take the stairs next time.