Recently qualified pilot Sara (Jessica Lowndes) and four of her friends, including creepy boyfriend Bruce (Landon Liboiron), take a short flight to attend a concert but after a mechanical failure they are stuck constantly ascending into a mysterious storm cloud. Stuck in the plane and unable to land the friends begin to struggle with their situation and eachother.
Seeing as the Cthulhu-esque monster on the DVD box art kind of gives the game away it seems safe to mention up front that this is a supernatural horror rather than a thriller/horror that relies simply on the friend’s being trapped on a plane that may very well crash. Whilst the more supernatural elements may be something that distances some audiences, the way the script handles this through gradual escalation is actually one of the film’s strengths. One of its few strengths though.
Despite the reasonably adept plotting that gradually builds tension as the level of threat increases, the script is lacking any real substance where it really matters. Little attention at all is paid to ensuring an audience is engaged in the plight of these characters, who are all just simplistic and dull stereotypes. Most tedious is the character of Cory (Ryan Donowho), the abrasive-drunk-jock-friend, whose loud and moronic shtick gets very tired before he even finishes his first line. The other characters are equally one dimensional and the uninspired writing is not helped by their weak performances. Lowndes aside, who equips herself reasonably well in some of the more dramatic scenes, this collection of young actors don’t seem up to the challenge at hand. Culled from some of the worst examples of youth orientated television series and films (90210, Life Unexpected and the Friday the 13th remake) one wonders if their built in fanbase may have had more to do with their casting than their abilities.
First time feature director Kaare Andrews does an adequate job at times of shooting within the plane, the film rarely moves from this confined space, but still feels the need to occasionally resort to slightly dopey camera techniques that add a little pulpy flavour but decimate any of the tension built up.
Recent examples of claustrophobic thrillers/horrors, such as Buried, Frozen or Devil, probably come to mind upon hearing the set up to Altitude but with a reference to Hitchcock in the first few minutes Andrews inspiration seems to be further in the past. The early Hitchcock reference is a mistake as it puts one in mind of that particular “master of suspense” throughout and with further references to EC comics and an approach indebted to The Twilight Zone, Andrews is really wearing his inspirations on his sleeve. All this does though is serve to remind us of all the places we’ve seen this kind of thing done in a far better and far more interesting way.
The picture and sound quality on this DVD are both excellent with a consistency in the representation of the conspicuous colour grading being particular noteworthy. The whole film has a blue intensity to it that is certainly striking but serves little purpose and adds to the feeling that the film is more of an exercise in style than a solid piece of storytelling.
The DVD also features a informative and candid commentary from Andrews and a reasonably long making of that tends to cover similar material.
Altitude is available to buy or rent on Blu-ray and DVD now.