Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ALTITUDE (Blu-ray)

Comic book artist Kaare Andrews (Ultimate X-Men, The Incredible Hulk) makes his feature film directorial debut with ALTITUDE (2010), a surprisingly original and polished horror thriller.

The premise is sheer genius, and simplicity itself:  five college students rent a twin-engine plane to fly to a Coldplay concert. The small aircraft is piloted by Sara (Jessica Lowndes, 90210), a young woman who lost her mother, also a pilot, in plane crash years before. Shortly after take-off, the plane experiences a mechanical problem which causes the plane to keep climbing, and makes it impossible for them to avoid an oncoming storm. Lost in the tempest and still gaining altitude, the kids slowly come to realize that there is something up there with them....

ALTITUDE is a remarkably accomplished first film. Andrews uses the small but talented cast (I thought Lowndes was particularly good in the lead and that Jake Weary played a very convincing asshole) and confined space of the plane's cabin to generate considerable tension and suspense. The extensive CGI work - virtually the entire movie was shot on a green screen stage - is effective and unobtrusive. The script by Paul Birkett is pretty imaginative, although a revelation in the final act comes (appropriately enough) out of thin air, and may not sit well with many viewers. I wasn't very happy with it myself, but it didn't seriously hinder my enjoyment of the film. I do wish they'd gone a different way, but their choice sorta works. 

Anchor Bay brings ALTITUDE to Blu-Ray disc with a perfect 2.40:1 1080p HD widescreen transfer and Dolby TruHD 5.1 audio. Supplemental material includes an audio commentary by Andrews, an exhaustive behind-the-scenes documentary, a special effects featurette, storyboards, and trailer. The film is also available on standard definition DVD.

Not everyone's going to be happy with the ending, but it's a very strong effort, and well worth checking out. Recommended.

BUY: Altitude [Blu-ray]

BUY: Altitude [DVD]