Altitude is the feature-length debut by director Kaare Andrews and follows five friends as they embark on a short 90 minute flight to a music festival to avoid the tortuous eight hour drive.
The pilot is Sara (Jessica Lowndes), who has followed in the footsteps of her mother and recently qualified to fly solo. Sara’s mother was killed when she was younger when the plane she was piloting suffered a freak crash, which also killed her passengers, a young family.
Completing the group embarking on the trip are wannabe filmmaker Mel (Juliana Guill), insufferable jock Sal (Jake Weary), aspiring musician Cory (Ryan Donowho) and Sara’s slightly nervous and awkward boyfriend Bruce (Landon Liboiron).
The group are suitably excited about the festival (Coldplay, wooo!) and things seem great, until a fault with the plane means that it’s constantly ascending. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re heading for storm clouds and it transpires that Sara isn’t qualified to fly in clouds solo, so has to keep radio contact at all times. But, would you believe it, there’s nothing but dead air on the end of the radio. What’s causing this madness? Is it a genuine fault or are there other forces at work?
Now, it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that the antagonist is a giant flying octopus, given that it’s shown on the cover. I don’t know about you, but when I think of airborne antagonists, a giant flying octopus isn’t high on the list. It really is quite laughable, as the plane approaches the mouth of the beast and is engulfed in tentacles.
Some films recently have seen the use of a limited environment and cast members used very effectively, the key example being Buried, and perhaps a lesser example being Devil. A large reason those two films worked as well as they did was down to the quality of the performances, particularly the former.
This brings us on to Altitude, and the area in which the film fails most spectacularly: the performances. The performances here vary between poor and tolerable and act as a distraction from the film’s fairly interesting premise. The worst of the bunch is Jake Weary’s Sal, who is surely a contender for the most insufferable tools ever to appear on screen. His performance brings down those around him as he commits to the obnoxious buffoon act a little too fully.
Now, I should say that I have quite a high tolerance for bad films, particularly since reviewing films on a regular basis, but Altitude really is quite poor. As mentioned earlier, the premise is fairly interesting, but it fails to deliver on the promise shown. This is glaringly apparent as soon as the first signs of trouble are revealed, as the film gets progressively more ridiculous as it works towards its ludicrous finale.
As such, it’s hard to recommend Altitude, even to those with a morbid fascination with low rent shockers.
The transfer, very much like the film itself, is full of promise early on, but soon reveals failings as the film progresses. At the beginning of the film, the picture is crisp and clear and is a step above most straight-to-video Blu-Ray releases. The plane looks great in the hanger as the camera lingers on the would be airborne death-trap as much as it does the cast, and the takeoff is well shot. But problems soon emerge when the plane is lost in the clouds and the effects’ failings soon become apparent.
It’s also in this part of the film where grain rears its head, which was absent earlier in the picture. It is very much as though a lot of attention was spent on the transfer early on in the film, to leave the audience with a good impression, and they decided not to bother with the rest.
The sound fares much better than the picture, as the film makes great use of the Dolby True HD 5.1 mix. Funnily enough, the sound really kicks in when the picture starts to show signs of failing.
Unfortunately, though, dialogue is deemed a low priority with segments of dialogue lost beneath all of the other audio effects. Better mixing could have resolved this, but given the quality of the transfer overall, it’s hardly surprising.
For a release like this, there’s a surprisingly decent array of features. Sitting through the directors commentary was something of an arduous task, partly because of the film being quite poor, but mainly because the commentary is rather dull. Director Kaare Andrews sounds distinctly uninterested and reveals only the basics of the making of the film.
Something that is of interest, though, is the behind-the-scenes documentaries entitled Altitude: Behind the scenes and Green Storm. The former looksin depth at the making of the film and the latter looks at the green screen process used for the majority of the film. Why there was a need for these to be separated is anyone’s guess, but they’re both far more interesting than the film itself.