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With little originality and its regularly irritating cast, Altitude appears to be a freefalling, B-class movie that provides more laughter than it does horror...
As an award-winning comic book writer and illustrator, it's no great surprise that writer-turned-director Kaare Andrews would use a comic book for the pivotal moment in this supernatural thriller. However, the question that ultimately stems from this fact is this - does the inclusion of Andrews' mastered medium ensure for a successful crossing, or is it merely a classic example of a wary director seeking refuge in familiar territory?
Beginning with a plane crash that gradually takes on greater significance throughout the film, Altitude follows five youths on the way to a Coldplay concert in a hired twin engine cabin plane. After a number of instruments begin to inexplicably malfunction, the ground seemingly disappears and the plane begins to climb into an electrical storm. With less than an hour of fuel remaining, their 'altitude unknown' and a strange buzzing noise, the crew soon finds themselves in a deadly showdown with a supernatural force that neither they - nor their rookie pilot - have ever experienced before.
By playing on the somewhat universal fear of flying - before then locating and applying said fear to a claustrophobic setting - Altitude should easily capture our imaginations. Unfortunately, the film's protagonists are moderately unhinged, irritating folk and are all representative of - and in possession of - traits that I would be happy to see die.
Altitude's rookie pilot, a role that allows her to deliver such memorable lines as “I'm not going to let us die” and “Stop being such a pussy and face your fears”, Sara (Jessica Lowndes) is the most likable, inoffensive character within the film. Yet, thanks to the film's rather idiotic script, Sara is regrettably paired with 'best friend' Sal (Jake Weary), a character whose immaturity and general irritable manner is almost insulting. He cheerily announces “plenty of time to get shit-faced” as they take-off and later cruelly rips up Bruce's collector's edition comic. In between these extremes lie Sara's sceptical traveller boyfriend Bruce (Landon Liboiron), the insipid Mel (Julianna Guill) and guitar-playing Mr-No-Character, Cory (Ryan Donowho).
As the film progresses, our crew begin to discover just how fragile parts of this light-air vehicle really are and, before long, Sara must force her reluctant boyfriend to fly the plane. Now, in the pursuit of objectivity I will bite my tongue, but suffice to say that filled pants, excess chucked baggage, a tied-up, freaked-out Bruce and talk of drawing straws for the only parachute really are the main highlights of this film. Its lack of depth is somewhat painful and, like Sara, Altitude's mediocre script is unable to save this gang; a group that actually cry “Oh no!” when the plane starts to plunge.
Amid ridiculous conspiracy theories, there's plenty of laughably bad bickering, blind panic and even an in-air lover's tiff, but these all seem rather superficial when compared to Altitude's numerous downfalls. The “touching” discussion about Sara's ill-fated mother - followed closely by Sara's equally unmoving pep talk - makes it nothing short of a relief when the gang start to disappear one at a time, swiped from the plane by an unseen threat in an apparent supernatural storm.
A few ineffectual attempts at twists lead to an infuriating ending that poignantly suggests you can't fake love. On the whole, it would appear that, through its 'nightmare world come true' sci-fi horror, Altitude had hoped to lie somewhere between Donnie Darko and Final Destination, but instead is nothing more than a poorly padded-out Twilight Zone episode with some interesting ideas.
• Altitude: Behind The Scenes
• Green Storm Featurette
• Original Concept Gallery
Despite its slim running time, Altitude actually manages to drag, but interestingly the special features do not. The 46-minute Behind The Scenes Featurette reveals that Altitude was a budget-orientated project and there are no shocks there. Described as a “supernatural pressure cooker” during revealing talks from cast and crew, it seems like someone forgot to put the lid on. Where the feature completely failed to captivate, the featurette does not, providing insight into the two year adventure of expanding the script; creating the far superior - and unfortunately disused - alternative endings, story influences, set prepping, day-by-day filming breakdowns and technical difficulties. The accompanying nine minute Green Storm Featurette concentrates on the use of green screen shots, special effects, stunts and the impressively tiny set. Unsurprisingly the Original Concept Gallery shows you the heavy comic book basis of the film.
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