2021 | R | starring Peri Baumeister, Dominic Purcell | directed by Peter Thorwarth | 2 hrs 1 mins | In German with English Subtitles |
The German genre film Blood Red Sky has a crackerjack high-concept premise you could sell in one line in an elevator. It gets botched in the execution by a bunch of tiny little decisions and a director who doesn’t seem to know the film’s potential for high camp fun. The film revolves around a group of terrorists who hijack an international red eye from Germany to New York. Unbeknownst to them, onboard is a mother Nadja (Peri Baumeister) and her son Elias travelling because mom has a rare blood condition and is seeking medical treatment. That condition: Vampirism. As the hijackers start murdering passengers and threatening to down the plane, Nadja finds herself in a unique position to save the flight even if it means unleashing this monster within her.
What a knock-out idea. A little exploitation, a little power fantasy, a confined setting and a lot of blood. Non-Stop meets 30 Days of Night. Before the movie divulges it’s twist, the set-up is also clever. She’s got a disease so she has to wear a wig, they’re traveling at night so she has to race the sunlight across the world. The terrorists themselves are appropriately nasty to justify the vampire threat. I was pumped for this movie, but little by little with each turn of the plot and missed opportunity the film starts deflating right before our eyes. It doesn’t counterbalance that terrorism with heroics, it balances it with more anger and misery. Things don’t spiral out of control with fateful, flawed character choices, they get tossed out by psychotic nonsense. The film becomes a relentless, dimly lit, unfun slog.
Even though we have thankfully come out of Hollywood’s phase of romanticizing vampires, I still enjoy seeing them portrayed as monsters. Baumeister’s lead performance here as a woman who loses control of her monstrous urges is great. It’s the highlight of the film. It also doesn’t serve the premise the way director Peter Thorwarth seems to be steering the story in. It’s a take on the character for a more introspective, character-driven, film, not a crackling terrorists vs. vampires genre flick where ass-kicking is on the menu. Maybe a better take on the film would have her dispatching all of the terrorists earlier and then becoming a threat the passengers had to deal with. Instead we get a film-long battle between between our two antagonists that spirals across a massive intercontinental airplane with huge luggage compartments and a car port in the belly of the plane. Instead of working with the confined space the film feels like it just builds more space in the plane when it needs to. It might as well be set in a warehouse.
Blood Red Sky hardly invented this, but it illuminates a truly obnoxious trope of all crime movies and shows I’ve been meaning to talk about. Movies where you have a group of villains, operating a well designed plan, but can’t keep control of one psychopath in their ranks. This is the guy who wouldn’t have been let in the group in the first place, the Wild Card, who keeps threatening their own mission. The guy they would have plugged in the head before anyone else. The guy the rest of the crew hates. Blood Red has that character in Eightball (Alexander Sheer), a nordic-looking villain who poses as an airplane steward, but whose pension for going after children makes him quickly rise above the more level-headed leader (Dominic Purcell) to become a leader in the hijacking. Eighball has both the most interesting arc in the film (conceptually) and the most obnoxious (in execution).
At 2 full hours Blood Red Sky is way too long and way too slow. Like most genre movies today it begins in a useless (and in this case confusing) flashforward and by the time it circles back to that for the climax the film has completely run out of fuel. What should be a 90 min, snappy, blow-by-blow villain vs villain movie is dragged on until all the fun is drained out of it.