During my mind-numbingly excruciating journey through Kaare Andrews’ 2010 supernatural plane ride “Altitude”, I discovered two incredibly fascinating truths about myself. The first is that I have a surprisingly low tolerance for stupidity in horror movies that take themselves too seriously. The second revelation is that I absolutely loathe watching a small cluster of attractive individuals bicker endlessly in an extremely small space for roughly 90 minutes. Conflict is a good thing to have in a script, that is, unless said interaction exists only to transform your short film into a feature-length motion picture.
That’s precisely what “Altitude” is: an interesting short film padded into a daunting 90-minute assault on your patience. What could have been a seriously insane excursion into Lovecraftian horror is effectively obliterated by writer Paul A. Birkett’s head-scratchingly awful script. The outrageous leaps in logic, not to mention the utter lack of common sense, are simply too much for anyone with half a functioning brain cell to handle. However, Watching Ryan Donowho pull himself up a rope that’s dangling from the back of a plane as it flies through a nasty storm is truly one of the funniest cinematic moments I’ve experienced this year. I’m honestly not kidding.
Jessica Lowndes — an obvious organ donor for Kate Beckinsale — stars as Sara, a rookie pilot who can’t wait to fly her friends to a Coldplay concert several hundred miles away. Just when you think the whole adventure is going a little too smoothly, an unforeseen mechanical errors causes the plane to go haywire. Despite Sara’s best efforts, the damned thing just keeps climbing higher and higher into the heavens. What’s more, they’re headed straight into the heart of a seriously nasty little storm, one that appears to be the home of an enormous squid-like creature. Freaky stuff, right? Well, not quite.
Instead of focusing on the giant Cthulhu lurking deep within those ominous black clouds, Andrews and Birkett choose to focus on the whiny, bitter Caucasians who seem more interested in acting like airheads and assholes than contributing anything remotely constructive to the situation. Sal (Jake Weary) is the worst offender; there isn’t a single moment in the entire movie when you don’t want something remarkably awful to happen to his face. In fact, none of the characters have one redeeming quality between them. Why is it so hard for people to write sympathetic characters these days?
The worst aspect of the whole bloody affair is the finale. Not only is it a fiercely fantastic example of lazy writing, it’s also incomprehensibly stupid, irritatingly convoluted, and hopelessly schmaltzy. You’d expect this sort of ending from an early-90’s Mel Gibson romance flick, not a horror movie that features a tentacled monstrosity pulling beautiful brunettes through the cockpit of airplanes in mid-air. It’s as if the filmmakers had backed themselves into a corner, and with nowhere else to turn, crafted a tacked-on conclusion that doesn’t fit with the rest of the feature.
I can’t imagine that many people will enjoy “Altitude”, even if you do somehow manage to overlook its numerous shortcomings. It’s just that bad. The story is much too frustrating and bothersome to be enjoyed as camp, and the filmmakers take the material way too seriously for it to fall into the “so bad it’s good” genre. Even those of us who are hard-up for Lovecraftian horror won’t be able to find any redeeming qualities within this fatally misguided endeavor. Unless Cthulhu personally commands you to watch it, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to waste your time and money on “Altitude”.
Kaare Andrews (director) / Paul A. Birkett (screenplay)
CAST: Jessica Lowndes … Sara
Julianna Guill … Mel
Ryan Donowho … Cory
Landon Liboiron … Bruce
Jake Weary … Sal