Blu-ray Review: Altitude (2010)

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Given the number of Anchor Bay Entertainment titles that have been sent my way over the past few months, there's a preview that I keep seeing over and over again like a one-track CD on repeat for a film called Frozen which consists of three teens getting abandoned in mid-air on a ski-lift.

While unfortunately I have no idea whether or not the film in question is good since that title didn't find its way into my mailbox, I can tell you with absolute certainty that what occurs in that brief trailer is far more believable, horrifying and compelling than anything witnessed throughout the entire ninety minute running time of Altitude.

Although I'd normally never compare a film I've never seen with one I have, because both works center on the same scary movie phenomenon of being “stuck” and follow the genre conventions of “pretty young things” who don't seem entirely sympathetic, it's saying something that an unforgettable trailer has managed to sear into my brain whereas as soon as Altitude was over, I knew I'd probably never give it a second thought.

A major part of the problem is the illogical set-up. Namely, teens do go skiing alone but you don't traditionally imagine a group of roughly eighteen year old friends all somehow having enough money to legally rent a private plane which one of them will again is purportedly of legal age to fly to attend a Coldplay concert.

In America, you must be twenty-five years old to rent a car. And while it's never specific – because McGill University is mentioned, we're left to assume that Altitude may take place in Canada so obviously, there could be some sort of legal difference or loophole that as an American I'm completely clueless about. Yet nonetheless, it's still hard to believe that a group of teens would be able to pull this off especially when you consider that one openly drinks beer in full view of a ground crew member before even getting into the tiny plane.

Likewise, once we realize that the young rookie flier piloting the plane isn't instrumented rated and is also the daughter of a woman who crashed in the air, we understand why the racist jock idiot character would need liquid courage to board the plane in the first place.

Yet while it's a foolish situation to put themselves in given the fact that it seems that most of them have little assurance as to just how experienced their cocky pilot leader is, it may have helped ease our suspension of disbelief at least a few fractions if the characters were a tad more likable. With this in mind, since action dictates character and we don't support anything they do, it's no surprise that we don't really like who they are.

While the three males on board seem either aggressively ignorant or quick to anger, aside from our pilot, the only other female is her obnoxious best friend who acts like Blair Witch Project's Heather by filming the entire experience even after bad weather erupts, instruments fail, gas begins running out and everything just generally goes wrong.

Morphing from a '70s style disaster movie into something one can only describe as a bizarre new age blend of fantastical supernatural horror that we're initially unsure is real or imagined, Altitude soon crashes spectacularly.

Overall, it's bogged down by the weight of far too many pseduo plot attempts, its shallow cast of characters, and a M. Night Shyamalan inspired twist we see coming as soon as someone cracks open a comic book. And ultimately there's nothing left for us that's worth caring about as -- having been presented with one dubious sequence after the next -- director Kaare Andrews tips the film's hat in making us guess how the end will finally play out.

Tragically, aside from a few breathtaking aerial shots that never fail to impress and remind us that Andrews can do wonders with visuals on a more limited budget, poor lighting hinders any aesthetic appreciation we may have gotten from the technical aspects of the Blu-ray.

With perfunctory, if not overwhelmingly spectacular high-definition sound, most of the time and regardless of which visual setting we use from vivid to custom picks, it's hard to separate the people from the background in a predominantly dark color palette, which again doesn't help the struggling film from staying alive in our imagination.

Given his background in graphic novels and the evidence we (sometimes struggle) to see in some of the spectacular high altitude death-defying battles, it's safe to say that with much better material and a superior lighting plan, the director's talent will shine through on a future project.

And obviously this might fare infinitely better on the small screen, particularly in the middle of the night on premium cable as sort of an admittedly cheesy B-movie horror fest.

However, as far as this particular Blu-ray is concerned, the only thing memorable about Altitude is the trailer about a few Frozen kids trapped on a ski-lift in the dark, where (as far as I know) there are no silly sky monsters or high-flying Coldplay fans in sight.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.