I've always been a bit freaked out by the idea of being in a plane. Granted, I've been in a plane, and it was a relaxing experience to say the least, but the fact that "the safest way to travel" can lead to a really scary death - one in which your remains may not be found - scares the the shit out of me. So yeah, it's not the least bit shocking that horror has taken advantage of this, what with the likes of "The Twilight Zone" episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", to campier fair like "Snakes on a Plane" and "Flight of the Living Dead." Well, comic book writer and artist Kaare Andrews' directorial debut "Altitude" tries to take a more serious minded approach to this, but sadly comes up short.
Sara (Jessica Lowndes) is a rookie pilot who survived a plane crash as a kid - too bad her mother didn't. Deciding to take her friends on a flight in a small twin-engine plane, it at first seems like things are going to turn our fine, until a malfunction sends the plane out of control. To make things worse, there's a supernatural, tentacled creature outside, floating in the sky and ready to take them with it.
On paper, "Altitude" sounds like a great idea, and to be honest, it's got some major pluses. There are some fine performances-especially from Lowndes (girl deserves to be a star), there's some moments of genuine suspense and tension, the cinematography by Norm Li is excellent, and the score by Jeff Tymoschuk really stands out. Oh, and the sky Octopus/Cthulhu (Cthulhu in the Sky With Diamonds!) is pretty much the definition of awesome. Yet somehow, it doesn't reach it's full potential, and ends up becoming a frustrating viewing experience.
Why? Well, while the cinematography is great, Andrews proves to be a mediocre director. Sure, it's his first time, and he should be commended for the moments of suspense he gets, but he's also guilty of plenty of scenes that come off as somewhat laughable, especially one in which Cory (Ryan Donowho) and his mid-air attempt to fix the tail wing while being anchored by Sal (Jake Weary.) This scene is supposed to be suspenseful, but it instead comes off as laughably bad. Then there's the aforementioned Weary, whose character Sal is incredibly obnoxious, and the actor's performance is really, really bad. You just want someone to shut him up whenever he opens his mouth. Finally, while the creature itself is by all means bad ass, the explanation for it's existence is damn near insulting, and is a prime example of how not to do a plot twist. Just let the thing exist in the film without some terrible explanation, don't tell us it's all been created by the mind of Bruce (Landon Liboiron)
I really, really wanted to like this movie, as the premise is great, and it has all the potential in the world to be a great sleeper type of film. However, it misses the mark, and ends up becoming one of the more frustrating horror films of the year. Not one of the worst, but one of the most frustrating. A shame really.