by Jef Burnham
Available October 26th, 2010 on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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Altitude is a mess of a picture that never quite takes off (if you’ll excuse the pun), literally stalling on the runway in the first five minutes when the main characters are introduced. The film follows these five friends as they board a plane flown by rookie pilot Sara for a weekend getaway, but a malfunction finds them sucked into a supernatural storm cloud inhabited by some sort of demonic sky squid.
Of course, for such a fantastical story to prove effective with an audience, the characters must be approached as real, multi-faceted people with whom the we can connect. In this case, however, by the film’s conclusion the quintet is barely fleshed out beyond the stereotypes of the brunette with daddy issues, the sensitive intellectual, the daredevil musician, the jock, and the blonde who dates the jock even though she’s constantly remarking on how much of a jerk he is. There is little deviation from these stereotypes and where there is, you’ll find a critical deficiency of realistic details, as when Mel the filmmaker asserts that she is compiling footage for her professional demo reel on the trip yet shoots nothing but embarrassingly low-res home movies. The screenwriter, Paul A. Birkett, made virtually no attempt at creating realistic characters, and it is therefore impossible to invest emotionally in Altitude.
But the characters are by no means the only failure in the film’s construction. For instance, the revelation of the sky squid’s origin undermines the entire narrative in a way not unlike those horror films in which the entire story is revealed to have been a dream. The only possible conclusion is to have the characters simply wish it all away. The bottom line: if you’re looking for a modern horror movie to sit down with this Halloween, believe me Altitude is not the one.
Instead, I recommend seeking out Adam Green’s Frozen (also available from Anchor Bay on Blu-ray and DVD), in which you’ll find fully fleshed-out characters engaging in a plausible, and therefore truly scary, storyline. You can read my full review of Frozen here.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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