Pete’s Peek | Buckle up for a fright flight into The Twilight Zone in Altitude

Anyone familiar with the classic Twilight Zone story, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, will be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu watching the supernatural thriller, Altitude.

In the Twilight Zone story, an airplane passenger (William Shatner in the original, John Lithgow in the movie) becomes convinced a gremlin is interfering with the aircraft’s wing during a violent storm. In this debut feature from comic book artist turned film director Kaare Andrews, it’s five passengers who are seeing things of a monstrous nature during a stormy flight.

Newly licenced pilot Sara (90210’s Jessica Lowndes) decides to take her boyfriend (Landon Liboiron), cousin and two friends to a rock concert in a tiny rented plane. But shortly after takeoff, a dislodged bolt gets stuck in the plane’s navigational system.

Unable to land or make contact with the ground, the group panic when they encounter a storm and realise they could all soon die. But that’s nothing compared to what’s lurking in the clouds – a giant squid-like creature. Is it real? Or imagined?

Altitude is certainly claustrophobic, but much of the scream time is taken up with the characters (none of them particularly likeable by the way) bickering amongst themselves when the going gets tough.

Some reviews describe the big monster moment as Lovecraftian – but there’s no evidence of that here. In fact, the creature’s appearance is quite fleeting, and you’ll be either disappointed or think it very clever when the real reason for its existence is revealed. I won’t give it away, but it is the kind of twist ending you’d expect to see in a graphic novel or in a Twilight Zone-type story – only it takes longer to tell.

The movie does have a highlight though – a totally ridiculous scene in which the most repellent of the characters attempts to fix the plane’s tail controls. This requires him to jump out of the plane, tied to a cable (the friends just happen to have brought their climbing equipment with them and, amazingly, don’t chuck it out when they’re lightening the plane’s load). Not since Christopher Lee’s ill-fated rescue attempt in the watery disaster film Airport ’77 have I witnessed a scenario so pointless. But, like that famous death scene, it’s the most inspired thing about this movie – and I’ve watched it twice now.

Out now on DVD and Blu-ray

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