Gripped: Climbing the Killer Pillar (2020) – A Review

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A review of the 2020 mountain climbing suspense film Gripped: Climbing the Killer Pillar, about two climbers trapped on the side of a mountain and must climb to the top of it to survive

Gal pals Rose (Amanda Maddox) and Jade (Megan Hensely) are on a trip to the High Sierras. The amateur rock climbers are anxious to do some “real” climbing. When Rose meets Brett (Kaiwi Lyman), who knows how to climb mountains, they hit it off and go on a few climbs to get her hands sore and for romance to bloom.

With adrenaline starting to rise, they decide to get more challenging and set their sights on ‘the Killer Pillar’. This rock won’t be so easy to climb.

Halfway up its high vertical cliff face disaster strikes! Equipment gets lost, Brett gets hurt and no one knows where they are. They can no longer go back down the way they came up this mountain and as Brett explains to her, “The only way down is up”.

Now that Brett is out of commission, it’s up to newbie Rose to the lead them to the top. Once they reach the peak they can then get back to the ground.

Gripped-Climbing-the-Killer-Pillar-2020-mountain-climbing-movie-Kaiwi-Lyman-Mersereau-Amanda-MaddoxI’ll bounce around Tubi, look through titles and take a chance on a film that catches my eye. Most times I’m treated to a low grade flick, others I can be pleasantly surprised.

Gripped: Climbing the Killer Pillar is a middle ground film. It’s a low-budget, small film with a small cast that was made over the course of three weeks. Don’t expect to be watching Cliffhanger. It’s entertaining and well made. Once the centerpiece of the story begins to unfold it’s effective, but there’s a long way to go to get there. As it faded out it didn’t leave much of an impact on me other than “that was a decent movie I stumbled onto on Tubi tonight”.

The film takes quite a bit of time before it gets to the Killer Pillar. There’s camping camaraderie and the story becomes something of a love story between these two. The actors are likable enough, but so much time is spent on their bantering and laughing together it starts to get tedious.

There’s nothing particularly interesting about the characters either. Rose is the wide-eyed, smiling excitable gal and Brett is the ‘nice guy’. There’s some seeds planted of whether he’s not such a nice guy, when it’s revealed this special time of climbing with Rose, is something he’s done with a lot of girls in the past. But that suspicion sort of withers away.

There is some beautiful scenery to enjoy during the entire film, but the first half does start to drag and you might get antsy for the film to just get these two to the dangerous peak. 

Kaiwi-Lyman-Mersereau-Amanda-Maddox-Climbing-the-Killer-Pillar-2020-mountain-climbing-survival-film-movieWhen it does you are rewarded. That’s when you get suspenseful close-up shots of robes being taut, water running low, bleeding fingers and vertigo inducing heights looking down to the ground below. 

The climbing scenes are beautifully shot. The landscape of the High Sierras and heights the two reach are breathtaking. The filmmakers convincingly make it appear Brett and Rose are clinging hundreds of feet against this rock gripping on for dear life.

What’s even more impressive is over the closing credits there are behind the scenes shots of the filming and it’s amazing to see how they managed to create the allusion of the heights while in some scenes the actors were quite safe near the ground. The magic of movie-making!

Gripped isn’t a film I’ll be revisiting, but I did enjoy it while I watched it. The ‘survival/trapped’ story isn’t as much of the centerpiece of the film as say Fall, which didn’t waste any time to exploit it’s scenario of sweaty palmed suspense.

Gripped is much slower paced and the ‘disaster’ scenario doesn’t fill as much of the film as you might hope. The scenes of Rose and Brett flirting and romancing get to be overlong and not particularly special in any way. It’s a very slow burn. Patience might be tested for some and who will be reaching for the remote to get to the ‘good stuff’. 

Amanda-Maddox-Gripped-Climbing-the-Killer-Pillar-2020-mountain-climbing-survival-filmI know nothing about mountain climbing, but it seemed the film went to great pains to be as realistic as possible with the equipment, the lingo and the whole philosophy of mountain climbing brats. It would be interesting to hear what an experienced climber thinks about the film and how accurate it really is.

As it stands, while small in its scale, it manages to create an effective survival tale that you’d hope made up more of the main piece of the film. That part of it works nicely, I only wished there was more of it. 

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