Monday, February 14, 2011

Mindless Movie Monday: Altitude

So.....I had to resurrect this series just for this film.  I can't express how silly Altitude is, really.  You almost have to see it for yourself (though I wouldn't if I were you). It's a pretty lame excuse for a concept film.
When perusing reviews of it on various places such as Netflix and Amazon - as I generally do before I decide to commit myself to untested waters - I was fairly intrigued at first, thinking the idea of a plane in trouble - not only with a disaster-movie feel but with some kind of supernatural force ( Cthulhu?!?) at play - sounded like my cup of tea. I'm a total sucker for disaster flicks, and at best was hoping this was at least going to be a Twilight Zone knockoff in the vein of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.  Though I will readily admit I couldn't fathom how they were going to pull that one off.

Guess what?  They didn't.  Sometimes, a movie in which the entire story is basically told in one place works well.  (See: Frozen, Buried, Devil, or any number of recent films that tried this gimmick and at least succeeded somewhat.)

Sure, they got a nice-looking cast together to bicker amongst themselves in true 'my girlfriend's hotter than yours' fashion, but damn if I couldn't have cared less.  The lone character that I found myself actually taking a liking to of course was offed first.

When we start out, we witness a family having a friendly skies adventure with a female pilot in a single engine touring plane.  The skies have darkened and it's obvious things have gone awry, with everyone gripping the sides of the plane in fear while the pilot tries to reassure everyone that all is well in the great blue yonder.  Of course that's a lie we quickly discover when another plane comes out of nowhere and they clip each other. Crash!  But it cuts away before we actually see a nasty impact.

The cast of 90210 takes a holiday....
Back to the future we go where we meet Sara (Jessica Lowndes), an undeniably sexy dark-haired girl with stunning green eyes who is about to take her three friends up up and away.  I think they mentioned going to a concert, but already I guess I wasn't paying close attention. Sara's three chums are utter stereotypes with absolutely no substance whatsoever.  We have Sal (Jake Weary), the annoying jack-ass jock, Mel (Julianna Guill), the dense cheerleader-type best friend, and Cory (Ryan Donowho), cousin of Sara who has an obvious crush on Mel.  
When at the tarmac, a fourth passenger arrives to everyone else's dismay except our pilot.  Seems Bruce (Lanson Liboiron) and Sara are a couple, but he is one nervous nelly and causes Sal in particular to poke a great deal of fun.  If I were Bruce, I'd have dug right back by mentioning the fact that Sal's name is SAL.  Do parents really still name their kids SAL?  Is he part of a mob family? 
I digress...  
They all board and off they go.

"We have clearance, Clarence...."
Here is where I complain that Sara seems to be all of maybe seventeen, and noticing that Sal is wearing a letterman's jacket can only further prove that they are intended to be high school friends.  Um, do they really let teenagers fly planes?  Really?  Because no matter how much I loved my friends from that era, there would be no way in heaven or hell that they would be flying me anywhere.  Also adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Sara's mom was a pilot who crashed and burned and took her chartered group with her.  Bit of anxiety for Sara I think. Lot of anxiety for her pals, who tend to rudely bring up the air disaster whenever a dig seems appropriate.

So in true 'Final Destination' form, we as the audience are privy to a bolt on the tail of the plane loosening.  Nothing like giving it away, you know?  But up they go, and at first all seems copacetic, with Sara mumbling a bunch of in-flight airplane jargon back and forth with the control tower.  Noticing Bruce is exceedingly nervous, she attempts to get him to take the controls and fly the plane himself - because someone scared to death is the perfect candidate - and he does a bit of freaking out which leads to loss of control and a whole lot of dipping and jerking around, knocking that loose bolt into a jamming position, which in turn causes the tail to malfunction.  Wow, what a startling turn of events.
The plane is now climbing relentlessly.  Sara has no real control and they go well above what is seemingly possible.  The sky grows dark and foreboding, and they lose radio communication.

Dude.  Get a life.  But not with me...
Meanwhile, because they don't all have enough to worry about, the quintet begins fighting amongst themselves.  Sal realizes Cory's feelings for Mel, Sara discovers Bruce has lied to her and has intentions of following her when she moves away in the next month (stalker!), and everyone making fun of Bruce's comic book obsession.  Why do people always have to make fun of the nerds?  And let's not forget Bruce's anxiety attacks in which he seems like he's in a trance. And not a very convincing one at that.

Anyway...  as if this isn't enough fun, they discover the remedy to the situation at hand is for one of them to go outside the plane and unjam the elevator (on the tail).   Um, okay - seriously?  I am the only one who cannot fathom this in the slightest?  I thought there was this whole altitude decompression thing - was I imagining that?  You know, the higher you get and all that?  Oh hell, whatever.  Cory decides he is the hero and Mel sends him outside to his probable death with a kiss.  Yeah, that makes it all worth it. 

"This is going to be awesome on You Tube!!"
Miraculously, after tying him to the inside of the plane with a rope (!) they open the door (and somehow none of them fly out, even though they are supposedly above 24,000 feet and still climbing) and off Cory goes.  But not before Sal sees something...odd.  We see it too, but not enough to really make out what it is supposed to be.  At least not until after Cory manages to fix the tail and is being hauled back into the plane.  Then we get a good glimpse of something that looks rather like the Kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean.  Scaring the piss right out of Sal, he cuts Cory loose and sends him off to his death.

So we've morphed from a disaster of the week film to a 'what the hell was that on the wing of the plane' movie.  Sounds relatively familiar, and it is.  The fact that the monster is supposed to be akin to a Lovecraftian nightmare doesn't really add anything whatsoever, and in fact pissed me off more.  This is not Cthulhu, my friends.  Matter of fact, it's not the Kraken either.  It's not even the giant squid from The Beast.  But how would I really know this fact?  We only see it for a total of maybe five minutes out of the hour and a half running time.  My favorite way to describe this film is something I read on Amazon I believe.  "While watching a disaster film, a monster floated by..."  A damn near perfect description I wish I'd thought of myself.

So if you're wondering what happens next, I won't spoil it by telling you.  Though I should, to spare anyone else the pain of sitting through this.

I suppose you could make it a fun drinking game though - just take a drink every time the camera shows a close-up of Jessica Lowndes - you'd be heaving in your toilet before the second act.  You might anyway, without the booze.

There is an intention of a twist at the end, but by the time they arrived at it, not only had I already figured it out well beforehand, but I could have absolutely cared less. 
Sure, I've seen worse. But I've never seen a more ridiculous 'space monster attacking a handicapped charter plane filled with irritating teenagers' film.  Hot damn.


Atroxion said...

"The cast of 90210 takes a holiday"

Funny stuff, but I only recall Jessica Lowndes from 90210. Then again, I've only seen season one.

"Altitude" did indeed turn out to be a wasted effort, but hey, at least it was going for something more unconventional instead of playing by the modern horror rules. Plus, I thought the film looked fabulous on a visual level (well, except for that tentacle thingy maybe).

Christine Hadden said...

Atroxion - Yeah, I don't even watch 90210 - the comment was made tongue in cheek, actually.

I have to say I really didn't even like the visuals here, thought it looked a bit too cheesy-movie-of-the-week, and the CGI was kind of awful. The plane just continually floated by, and half the time, no one was flying it. If you were in that much jeopardy would you actually put it on auto-pilot? I think not.

And yes, once they got to the "monster" there was certainly no redemption in sight :)

highwayknees said...

Hi there, no comment about the film-haven't seen it . But what is the music /soundtrack you are using when your site opens up? It's so familiar-driving me nuts cause i can't put my finger on it...?
Thanks heaps!

Christine Hadden said...

Highwayknees: The music you hear is actually on a mix-pod in the right side of the blog - it's on shuffle, so I'm not sure which one you are hearing because it's different each time. But the mix pod lists the titles of each song. If you need more help let me know :)

Mr. Xploit, Esquire said...

i actually kinda liked it. the monster is HP Lovecraft inspired. like the cthulhu. and lowndes is acutally an ok actress.

Gareth Lelean said...

I think this is one of the best films I've ever seen, and no, I'm not joking, crazy, drunk or high. If you want pure tripe, I can recommend a few films: Watchmen, Sunshine, Eragon, Harry Potter (every last infernal one of them), The Hulk (the Eric Bana version), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I could go on but I just don't have the energy to waste on abysmal films. Altitude however, brilliant. Glad I bought the DVD. Watched it a dozen times already. Twice in one day as well. Haven't done that with a film since Bender's Big Score. Peace.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what this fascination with starting out entire blog posts with "So" is but it is horrendous grammar, at best.

Christine Hadden said...

I'm not sure what this fascination with being "anonymous" is. Generally I don't even post those comments. Lucky you.