DVD Review: Altitude

Posted on October 26, 2010 by N. Amer Editor

DVD Review: Altitude (2010)
Directed by:
Kaare Andrews
Starring: Jessica Lowndes, Julianna Guill, Ryan Donowho, Landon Liboiron, Jake Weary
Review by: Kayley Viteo

As far as supernatural horror thrillers set in an airplane go, Altitude doesn’t exactly crash and burn, although there is some serious turbulence. Still, there’s something about this film that is engaging and thought-provoking, making me really appreciate its multilayered plotline.

Altitude is a film about five teenagers who decide to fly instead of drive to a Coldplay concert because they are just that cool and one of them happens to be a rookie pilot who just got her pilot’s license. Obviously, you can tell they’re already off to a bad start and matters aren’t helped when a supernatural being in the sky appears.

The thing I like about Altitude is how smart the plot is – this is neither your typical survival horror movie, nor a typical monster movie. Somehow, Altitude manages to cross into the thriller, horror and sci-fi genres without seeming too ridiculous, which is a tough thing to do for a relatively small movie. This is an ambitious plotline for a relatively low budget, particularly in the visual effects arena, which number in the hundreds. No matter what flaws Altitude has, it is clearly a labor of love.

Altitude is far from perfect, however. When you find yourself having to struggle to pay attention during a key moment, you know something is wrong with the script. The thing is, with a movie that basically takes place entirely in a small tube (and you know there’s a big monster coming), there’s already some built-in tension. Where Altitude goes wrong is that whatever tension it comes in with goes completely away around the halfway mark. Suddenly, the characters are far less interesting and their dialogue is at times almost laughable, creating human drama within the story that frankly just feels silly. But, although the supernatural drama at times is overwrought, it still manages to be effective and entertaining. The twists in the plot are genuinely surprising and, with exception to a stray comic book sub-plot, everything makes sense.

In addition, the acting across the board is generally pretty good, but the clear standout is the lead, Jessica Lowndes. Although I at times questioned her blocking (no hands on the throttle during a thunderstorm?), her flaws are due to the script and/or direction rather than in her acting itself. The rest of the cast is quite frankly forgettable, but again, I feel most of this is due to the script lacking energy towards its middle.

Then, there’s the issue of the ending. This is one of the few endings of a horror film where I really feel torn, but it is utterly fascinating to listen to the behind the scenes extra, where the director, Kaare Andrews, and writer, Paul A. Birkett, discuss the many script revisions the movie went through. I will just say that the writer’s original ending, which was never filmed, was far more intriguing than what we see in the film.

I’ve already mentioned one extra, the behind the scenes documentary of the making of Altitude. There is one other, an audio commentary. I highly recommend the mini-documentary extra, which is pretty lengthy, and features some fantastic interviews with the director and explanation for how the visual effects were created.