The trailer for this film makes it look like an interesting twist on the “special agent on a hijacked plane” school of action movies. Specifically asking the questions “what if the special agent’s child was also on board?” and “what if the special agent was a vampire?”. Whilst I’m sure writer and director Peter Thorwarth could have done that well, I’m just happy he ended up asking enough further questions to justify gluing three movies worth of concept together.
The film hinges extensively on playing with and abusing the kind of cliches you’d expect from something grounded in Passenger 57, Red Eye, and their many offspring. So, forgive me if the following words are a bit spares on information least massive spoilers ruin your watching experience.
What can be said is that the film starts about four-fifths of the way through the story and that whatever you think is going on isn’t. This is a pattern that continues throughout the film, along with the high-tension, naturalistic acting, and drama shooting styles. When we do get to the start of the story, we are given the main details from the trailer: Nadja (Peri Baumeister) has vampirism and is on a plane to America with her son Elias (Carl Anton Koch) to get it treated. The plane gets hijacked by Berg (Dominic Purcell), his team, and the obligatory psychopath Eightball (Alexander Scheer). Hijinks ensue as Nadja vampires up and takes down the bad guys.
What isn’t shown in the trailer is how almost none of this is handled as an action movie. For a start, Nadja doesn’t present herself as being especially heroic or into the whole doing of heroic things; she is a mother who is very scared for her child. It also doesn’t show what Nadja going into vampire mode does to her son, or how so much of the film is focused on the parent/child relationship when the parent becomes radically “other”. Oh yes, this film loves its psychological trauma more than it loves seeing bad guys get their incredibly earned comeuppance.
The trailer also doesn’t show how much of an ensemble performance the film is, with everyone playing their part in making things just downbeat and realistic enough to counter having a member of the undead running around, draining people. People do things for logical reasons, including becoming just a little bit smaller than life when a gun is waved menacingly in their face. Smart things are done because people have thought about it, stupid things happen because people were scared out of their minds. Good, honest, realism of emotion to help carry the fantasy through.
Mostly though, what you won’t be prepared for are the two other movies that turn up in acts two and three respectively. The first is a tight horror, about how Nadja got to suffer from her condition. Partly it’s exposition, mostly it’s a means to get inside her current mental state and let the psychological boot of her past more clearly kick in her teeth in the present. The second is even more left field, although perfectly set-up, and arrives like a masked slasher to really shit up the passengers otherwise quite awful day.
Because of all the mucking around with story and expectations, not everyone will like this film. It packs a lot into its two hours, and if you wanted a steady ride, you will be quite disappointed. Horror fans will love it, though possibly get upset by its emotional underpinning and the fact that a lead character is a child, action fans might love it as long as they are okay with it not being an action film. Thriller fans I have no clue, as it goes screaming into action and horror after the first 20 minutes and refuses to sit down and be sensible after that.
Personally, I enjoyed things once I knew I had no idea what was coming next, however that unpredictability and twisting of cliché means I doubt I’ll be bothering to ever watch it again. That doesn’t stop it being a Treasure though, and I hope it’ll encourage Netflix to be more confident in letting their creative teams go this will again.
Blood Red Sky is available now on Netflix