Altitude (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus was enjoying the flight when a tentacle came in the window. WTF?!
Despite losing her mother in a freak plane accident when she was younger, Sara (Jessica Lowndes) has become pilot herself, and now to celebrate the fact she is taking her friends to see a gig in a rented plane.
With her friends aboard the group take to the sky, but it isn’t long before something goes wrong and the plane is stuck in a steep climb. With the plane full of teens trapped in a storm cloud with all of the instruments giving false readings, the friends begin to fall apart and things go from bad to worse when they realise there might be a creature up there with them.
Altitude is one of those movies that starts off okay, seemingly having a pretty original premise, but then doesn’t really know how to fill a ninety minute run time, so it throws the usual teen horror clichés at you. The set-up is fine, we have your sweet and smiley lead in Lowndes, but as usual with these things there’s no real indication as to why she hangs out with such a bunch of douche bags. The other girl (Julianna Guill) in the group seems okay but the horrifically obvious jock boyfriend and the “look I’m cool because I have a long side parting and a guitar" indie friend just feels thrown in to cause unnecessary extra tension to carry the weight of the slow build up to spooky elements arrival. There’s also Sara’s mysterious new boyfriend Bruce (Landon Liboiron), but there’s never any sense they are an item throughout the runtime, even though it’s mentioned a couple of times. He feels more like someone they’d offered a lift to.
Anyway, with the players in place we get to the good stuff, and that’s the dilemma’s with the plane. As a fairly inexpensive location for making a film, the cabin of a small plane with whiteness or blackness outside the windows seems like a stroke of genius, and despite never having the feeling the plane is in the air (thanks largely to some bad exterior special effects shots) this made quite a nice change to the usual teens running through the woods/haunted house. That said, we’re bombarded with so much plane jargon and step by step explanations of what’s going on with the plane, I felt like I was on a pilot course after a while.
So as the plane is locked in its climb and the freak storm is a-blowin, Altitude began to lose its grip on me. For starters everyone on that plane freaks out to the extreme way too fast for me only for a series of more uneven responses following. The rash decisions about what to do grow tiresome and when “look I’m cool because I have a long side parting and a guitar" indie friend decides to go outside of the plane to fix the tail, every ounce of believability was zapped and that’s even before the tentacles turn up.
Yup that’s right, there are scenes where tentacles attack the plane—big octopus tentacles. I don’t want to give much away, but if you’re a Lost watcher the reveal here isn’t unlike what you might have been thinking the deal was with Walt mid-way through season one.
Altitude's visuals are split into two halves really—the bright and sunny stuff with reds and blues popping off the screen and the dark stormy stuff which is bathed in blackness and is a whole lot grittier.
The movie as a whole has a green hue to it, which makes everyone’s eyes the same colour and literally makes Lowndes dark make-up boosted eyes pop out off the screen. There’s also a whole load of pretty extreme close ups of the girl selling her cute freckles, tear-soaked face and shaky hands on the controls. Textures are generally good but not all that consistent, depending on how much darkness there in a shot can greatly waver the balance between detail and grain. This standard definition transfer holds up pretty well and it’s really only the darker effects shots that lose the detail needed. Sometimes the transfer only hints at the effects but this may very well be intentional with budget limitations.
This Dolby Digital track is loud when it needs to be but I wouldn’t say it was all that well put together. Elements can sometimes feel disjointed from the whole, like the score’s dancy drumesque section feeling like it’s hovering in the rear speakers outside of the rest of the mix or the hinting that the sound of rain is hammering on the windows of the plane but it’s only just about there.
There’s a few show off moments, like when we travel through a spinning propeller, the plane door gets slammed, or we hear “the monster” in the clouds, but really it’s all to do with the volumes rising as opposed to a good bit of sound design and Altitude feels like its shouting for attention rather than immersing you in its situation.
What this one man commentary track from director Kaare Andrews lacks in excitement it makes up for in enthusiasm. Andrews often falls into telling us simply what’s happening on the screen and providing us with what he feels is the subtext to the scene but when he talks about making his movie he genuinely sounds like a guy who loves what he does and that makes the track quite enjoyable for a solo effort.
The behind the scenes (47:03) is a surprisingly good watch and more akin to those great DVD docs on classics like Jaws as opposed to a little flick like this (of course it’s not quite that amazing but you know what I mean). The pacing is good, the details of the shoot are well presented and this making of feels very slick and detailed, especially when compared to most of the fluff that passes as 'making ofs' nowadays.
The ’Green Screen Featurette’ (09:41) shows off the effects and their layers from the all green screen set with a plane sat in the middle of it. I wouldn’t call the effects in the movie a total success but seeing it like this shows off just how much was achieved.
The ‘Original Concept Gallery’ (03:00) is the art work from the movie set to the score and finally the trailer (01:47) wraps up the extras.
Altitude was the same old elements in a fairly new location. Something about this pretty cast and their over the top reactions to their dire situation killed my intrigue as the story plodded on but I won’t deny that the movie had me as a willing passenger for longer than most of these teen horror/thrillers usual manage (and I promise it wasn’t just because I didn’t mind looking at close ups of Jessica Lowndes’ freckles.)
The disc has okay visuals but I sometimes felt like something was lacking in the darker scenes and the extras were actually way better than could have been expected with an enjoyable good length making of and a pretty good commentary track.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 14th March 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Behind the Scnes, Commentary, Featurettes, Original Concept Gallery, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kaare Andrews
Cast: Jessica Lowndes, Julianna Guill, Landon Liboiron
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror and Thriller
Length: 86 minutes
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