The Free Fall: Shawn Ashmore Teases New Horror Film

Directed by Adam Stilwell, The Free Fall is a mystery box of a horror film. Although the film opens with what seems like a modern retelling of the Bluebeard folklore -- a sinister husband with some dark secrets -- it transforms into something bolder and visually stunning. Written by Kent Harper, The Free Fall follows devoted (albeit clingy) husband Nick (Shawn Ashmore) as he takes care of his wife Sara (Andrea Londo) after a tragic incident shakes her to her very core. What follows next is a thrilling and terrifying puzzle to solve.

During an interview with CBR, The Boys' Shawn Ashmore revealed what makes The Free Fall such a compelling horror film, from its gorgeous cinematography to the careful handling of its central mystery. Without spoiling the film's ending, Ashmore praised Harper's script and shared his excitement for fellow horror buffs to experience its wild ride.

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CBR: First off, The Free Fall is such a thrilling film. Every step of the way, there's so much going on with its mystery.

Shawn Ashmore: I felt the same way when I read the script, immediately. That's what's really cool because it's so rare that when you read a script, and you like it, that it translates accurately, or the same way that you imagined it into the film. There are just so many things that happen in between.

I read the script, and I was like, "I need to do this." I sat down with Adam and was like, "I have to play this." I never say that when I go into meetings. I was like, "This is my movie. I need to do this. I have to say to you that I'm the person because if I don't say it to you, and tell you why I need to play this character, I'll feel horrible if I don't get this role." So I did everything I could to get it and we clicked right away. But yeah, there's so much going on. It's so complex. I'm glad that you feel that way because that's how I felt when I read it.

When I first started watching it, I wasn't sure what was happening. I was like is this a Bluebeard tale with there's a secret floor of dead wives?

Right, right. [laughs] That's just it. You know something's off immediately. Sara has just attempted suicide, and so, no matter what, you're seeing the film is from Sara's perspective. You're her, it's her eyes, it's her prism that we see the film through, so you know something's going to be off anyway because she's recuperating and coming to after an attempted suicide. So no matter what, it's going to be a bizarre scenario for her to experience the world again.

I think as the audience, you take that into consideration, but then there's also something else underneath that's a little strange. And again, the excitement of this movie is solving the mystery. That's how I felt, I think that's what it is. You know something's happening. You just don't know how bizarre it is, or how strange it is, or which direction the mystery is gonna go. I think that Adam really plotted that out nicely. I think it really pays off in a cool way.

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When you were reading the script, what really attracted you to Nick's character? What about his sinister nature made you go, "Oh, I really think this is just a meaty role that I have to take."

First, it's just not the kind of role that I get the opportunity to play a lot, but it's the kind of role that I know I can do. It's that thing for an actor where people see you in a certain way, which is great that you've accomplished something, but it's how people see you. This was that balance. On the surface, he seems like a good guy and a normal person, but underneath all that, there's a real complexity. I was excited to play that meaty character, to play the darker side of Nick, but also, I understood how to play Nick.

His intention is pure. I don't mean that it's good, but he is trying to fill a void that he has. He's trying to make a connection. He needs Sara. He needs this love. He needs this attention. I think that there's nothing more human than that. That's what we're all trying to do. So although it turns out that he has some very strange ulterior motives, I wanted him to be as honest as possible. Like when he is saying that he loves her and he needs her, he means that. There's more to it. There's more depth to it... There's a manipulation happening, but not entirely. I didn't want to feel like the character was lying the whole time.

Yeah, I was going to ask how you felt about playing through that?

He genuinely feels this way about her. He needs her. So I thought that was interesting. That, and how to make that real. But then, also, at the end of the film, when there's a reveal, play it so the audience doesn't feel manipulated... I don't think we do that, and that's very important to me. There are so many films that I see where there's like a big mystery, or there's a bit of a turn or reveal, and you feel like the filmmakers lied to you because they don't give you enough information. It's like a magic trick. It's like, "Oh, just kidding. This is actually what's happening."

I hoped that on the second viewing of this film people go back and they see that we laid those breadcrumbs. And it's clear, like, "Oh, the truth was there the whole time. We just didn't know what truth we were looking for." We talked about films like Rosemary's Baby, for example. The truth is there the whole time. The first time you watch it, you don't know what you're looking for. If you go back and watch it, and you see [John] Cassavetes performance, there's a moment there where I'm like, "Oh, that's where he knew that he was in on this."

That's exciting to me, when a film can tell you the truth and give you all the information but you don't know what you're looking for the first time around, so you miss it. Then, on the second viewing, you're like, "Ah, now I get what was happening." I think I don't think we overthought that, but that was definitely part of my thinking when I read this script, and was like, "Oh, I really want to lay this out."

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That's an incredibly tricky balance because you're trying to balance the intrigue and sinister stuff without overplaying it so it doesn't feel too obvious. The audience wants Nick to feel genuine enough so we don't feel like we were sucker-punched.

Yeah, you don't want to feel manipulated. It's a fine line, which is what we tried to walk -- to make him genuine, but also truthful. All the obvious manipulations [balanced] against the professions of love. Again, that's all real. It's not fake. It's just why he's saying it that is the question.

One of the things that really helps with that is Andrea Londo's performance as Sara. She has such a quiet intensity about her that comes across as incredibly genuine. When you were on set with her, what choices did she make that helped inform yours?

Yeah, she's fantastic in the movie. As I said earlier, the whole movie is seen through Sara's eyes. It's her story. Andrea and I were just talking about that. We had no rehearsal together. We didn't even really discuss the characters together. Adam and Andrea talked a ton, and Adam and I talked a ton. So we came prepared with what our characters wanted, and what our intentions were; but in a way, these characters are strangers -- even though they're a married couple.

That was intentional. There's some strategy to just like, "We're prepared," and then we step on set. The whole movie really -- aside from the Rose character who's there, and the dinner table scene where there's a bunch of characters -- is just the two of us for them for the most part. I think we both thought of the film as a conversation, and we're both trying to get our points across.

For Andrea's performance, it is insanely challenging, especially, at the top of the film, to be meek and scared and out of control, but not feel like a pushover, which she never did. It's hard. She's lost. We were just talking about that. I think Andrea had this fear that her character is going to seem to be not able to make any decisions. That's okay, I think, because that's the scenario she's in. But she didn't play it like that. She played it genuine and there's a quiet strength -- even in her most vulnerable state.

I think that you need that in that character, so that when she makes the decision at the end of the film, it doesn't seem like it comes out of nowhere, like, "How did this person like that four days ago was a complete mess muster the strength to make this decision?" It's a very difficult decision to make. I think that's because, in Andrea, she has that strength, so even when she's playing the character at a weakened state, there's a strength that she has. I think that was a choice that she made to really maintain that.

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I would love to hear what it was like working with VFX artist Damian Drago. You're no stranger to special effects. You're someone who has worked on OG superhero films like X-Men and most recently in The Boys. What was something unique about his approach to effects that you'd love to share?

I think that with The Free Fall, everything was so organic. My favorite moment, special effects-wise, from a storytelling perspective was the tableau that was created after the film's dinner scene. There's an event that happens and time freezes. It's this Baroque-like painting. When I saw the frame, I just thought it was so cool as a directorial choice but also its special effects. That's my favorite moment of the film that uses special effects. It paints such an interesting, beautiful, and dark picture that really encompasses the story, the moment, and the characters in the film.

Also, the special effects weren't overwhelming. It wasn't like we were painted with dots or had big green screens. Again, that's my preference. With things like X Men or The Boys, you need that, but I mostly appreciate small touches, like something that accentuates a moment or a scene as opposed to dominating it. I think there are several lovely moments, but that was my favorite. There was a green screen, obviously, to do that freeze-frame and have Rose walk towards us while the rest of the world is frozen in like a dream state and then all this craziness is revealed. So that was a pretty cool moment.

Things aren't what they appear to be in the psychological thriller The Free Fall. Enter the film's haunting and horrific mystery in theaters or on VOD on Jan 14.

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About The Author
Cass Clarke (705 Articles Published)

Cass is CBR's Reviews & Interview Editor. They have an MFA in Fiction from Emerson College. They have a soft spot for horror & are always open to learning about upcoming projects within that realm. Follow them @Cass__Clarke. Check out their prior work at their author site here. All press inquiries can be directed to their CBR email: [email protected]

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