Tower of Terror

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins in Halloween 1939, revolving around the fate of five people – singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine (who is modeled after child actress Shirley Temple), her nanny Emeline Partridge, and bellhop Dewey Todd, they were invited to be at the Tip Top Party located on the hotel’s twelfth floor. The elevator suddenly got stuck at the eleventh floor, then at exactly 8:05 pm, lightning strikes the building which causes the elevator to collapse, and the five people mysteriously vanish..

The scene then travels to almost sixty years later, when newspaper reporter Buzzy Crocker and his niece Anna meet up with an old woman named Abigail Gregory, Abigail claims that Emeline Partridge, nanny of child actress Sally Shine, orchestrated the incident through an evil spell because she was annoyed over the girl’s spoiled attitude. However, the spell backfired, trapping the guests as spirits in the earthly realm inside the hotel. Abigail says she can reverse the spell if the elevator is repaired and the team finds something that belonged to each of the hotel guests, then repeat the guests’ actions in the elevator on Halloween. This will free their spirits from the hotel. They then enlist the help of Chris “Q” Todd, a car mechanic and Dewey’s grandson, who, despite being initially reluctant, volunteers to help his deceased grandfather and the four other guests.

The team realize that Abigail was the one responsible for the disappearance of the hotel guests on the elevator, including her younger sister Sally, born Sally Gregory, out of personal vendetta and jealousy against her sister’s booming career. The final straw being the party, to which she wasn’t invited, having been set on her birthday, which no one remembered . Buzzy then realizes that what they did actually gave Abigail the means to complete her spell. The team then rushes back to the hotel, but they are too late.

Meanwhile, the ghosts board the elevator. Anna rushes in as well, trying to keep them from boarding. Sally manages to run out of the elevator, joining the living, but Anna gets trapped as the passenger elevator moves up. They then confront Abigail, who then tearfully admits her wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the elevator continues to move up, only to once again get stuck on the eleventh floor, with only minutes left before history repeats itself. Sally, wondering what the commotion was about, joins the group, and Abigail gets frightened. When asked by Buzzy what would she say to Abigail, Sally says that the whole party was meant to be a surprise birthday for her older sister, and apologizes for not being able to get to the party. Sally even kept the present she wanted to give to Abby, a bracelet with their names on it, but couldn’t since she could not get to the party. Abby, Buzzy, Jill, Q and Sally then board the service elevator, catching up with the others on the eleventh floor. Anna manages to escape from an emergency escape hatch, rejoining Buzzy and the others in their elevator. At exactly 8:05pm, the lightning strikes the hotel again, and both elevators plummet downwards. Amidst the chaos, Sally forgives her sister, and as they hold hands, they both turn into a shower of gold dust, breaking the curse and stopping both elevators just as they were about to hit the ground floor.

The groups are saved, and they all go to the Tip-Top Club on the top floor, restored to its former glory. One by one, the ghosts then ascend to Heaven, along with the other partygoers. Abigail, young once more, appears, meeting up once more with her sister, and thanks her for the present. The Gregory sisters then join hands and vanish into the night, breaking the curse on the hotel. With the spell broken, the Tower is re-opened to the public, with Q taking charge.


Back in March, I went to Disneyworld and one of the rides I rode was the “Tower of Terror” (thank my boss’ super-hot sister for getting me to forget my fear of heights and getting on that thing). I really was digging the 30s vibe that was used as decoration and also the Twilight Zone video that was used to set up the story of the ride. I came back to find those episodes, only to be disappointed that they weren’t real. I did find Tower of Terror. This is a made for TV movie of the mid-90s, so I guess the question is how bad/cheesy is it?

What is this about?

Steve Guttenberg stars as a tabloid reporter who wants to return to mainstream journalism; all he needs is a big story. He gets one when he happens upon the mystery surrounding the disappearance of five people at an old luxury hotel in the 1930s. The locals believe that the ghosts of those five people now haunt the hotel.

What did I like?

Location. As you can imagine, a good chunk of this film takes place at the hotel. I imagined they would have just found some way to make a Tower of Terror replication, but it appears that they used the actual ride for the set. Considering that this was made for no other reason than to advertise the ride, that was some inspired scouting. Not to mention the fact that they probably saved some money.

Back and forth. As any avid reader of mine will tell you, I’m a huge fan of all things retro, swing, 30s, etc. This starts in 1939 at a hotel party, complete wit big band playing swing and a Shirley Temple inspired character. I was eating this up and wishing they would have stayed there the whole time. However, that wouldn’t have worked, as they needed to be ghosts and the old woman needed to be…well, old. The flashbacks appeased me, though, and the present day stuff wasn’t too bad, so it was a nice balance.

What didn’t I like?

Connect the dots. As I said before, the purpose of this film is that it is propaganda for the ride that had just opened when this was released. If you’ve ever been on that ride, you know that there is a story there. Parts of it are kept in this plot, but I have to wonder, if Disney had the right to use the Twilight Zone name, footage, etc, why couldn’t they have the same story that we see on the ride and expand upon it, rather than coming up with this, which was almost too sweet to stomach.

Magic storm. There is a plotline in here involving a jealous sister and magic that caused the elevator accident that fateful night. I think this was part of the attempt to make this a totally separate entity than the ride, but it just comes off as uninspired to me. A mechanical malfunction caused by a freak lightning bolt works just as well. Now, if they must bring in magic, that could have been used for how they still walk the earth. Hell, one of them even gets hired as an actress! I just feel they could have done something more interesting with the witchcraft angle, if they must use it.

For a made-for-TV movie, Tower of Terror is much better than you would imagine. It even passes the test of time…for now. A teenaged Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg as well as the gorgeous Nia Peeples and Melora Hardin star in this family light-hearted supernatural thriller, but it is the hotel and the elevator that should be getting top billing. This is not a great film, but it is sweet enough that you can enjoy with the whole family. I recommend it based on that, but if you’re looking for something on the ride, best to look for Youtube videos and enjoy people’s screams.

3 1/4 out of 5 stars


One Response to “Tower of Terror”

  1. […] an attempt to stick to its roots. Can the other films based on rides say that? Ok…maybe Tower of Terror, but that was specifically made as an advertisement for that particular ride. I have to tip my hat […]

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