Review by David Baldwin
After an extended prologue, we flashback to Elias (Carl Anton Koch) checking himself and his mother Nadja (Peri Baumeister) in for an overnight flight from Frankfurt to New York. She is sick and not with him; instead taking heavy drugs in her hotel room and prepping for an experimental treatment in the US. Shortly after getting in the air, terrorists seize control of the plane and start making demands and taking hostages. Nadja gets caught in some crossfire and is believed dead — that is, until she reveals herself to be a vampire hellbent on protecting her son from harm.
Yes, you read that right. Nadja is a vampire and she is stuck on a transatlantic flight filled with mostly innocent passengers turned hostages and a batch of deadly terrorists, including the enigmatic Eightball (Alexander Scheer), who seems to have it out for her. What could possibly go wrong?
Blood Red Sky is powered by a very fun crux of an idea — vampire(s) on a plane(!) — that feels nearly wasted by a 2-hour film bogged down by frivolous details. The flashback structure is intriguing, and extends to showing how Nadja came to be a vampire. Sadly, these moments go on too long and become rather tedious all too quickly, with entire sequences rendered practically useless because they add nothing to the greater story. All it does is pad out the running time, which becomes infinitely clear once the film stops knowing what to do with the large cast of characters playing the passengers and the terrorists. Some get their moments to shine, and others get a few lines before being forgotten about, including characters you would imagine were a whole lot more important once upon a time. The film is content to just slow down for the inane flashbacks and then ramp back up so fiercely that it does not have time for anything else (including why it contradicts itself more than once). And when one peculiar moment of absolute chaos erupts in the third act, Blood Red Sky undersells it and cuts it to pieces so the audience gets barely any satisfaction. For such a vicious film, it really lacks bite.
That said, a specific turn late in the second act would have been an absolute joy to see with a roaring crowd, even if they would have been less than enthused with the rest of the film around it.
However, the biggest disappointment with Blood Red Sky is that there is a lot of greatness buried within the misfires. The CGI used on the plane is laughably bad, but the makeup and brutal gore effects are top notch. The uneasy tension in some scenes is terrific and the few breathless set pieces are fairly effective. The focus on family and Nadja protecting her son at all costs is a great hook that feels different from other vampire thrillers. Koch is great as the young and impressionable Elias, and Baumeister really sells the horrifying agony her character goes through over the course of the film. It is a very physical and involved performance that rises above the confines of the dialogue and wonky story structure, and deserved to be part of a better film. I wanted a bit more from Dominic Purcell and wish Scheer’s ludicrously over-the-top performance was toned down just a bit (though they both get meatier parts than the rest of the terrorists in their group). Can’t win them all I guess but hey, how delightful is it that this band of English terrorists speak English and do not try and phone in a haphazard German accent? How often do we see that happen?
While I was really excited to watch Blood Red Sky, I have found myself ambivalent and totally indecisive ever since it ended. I keep wanting to write, yet do not feel compelled to really say anything. And I think that is exactly what is wrong with the film — it wants to say and be more than its fun idea on paper, but it stumbles in its attempts to truly be as compelling as it intends to be. There are some great elements scattered throughout which rise above the film’s faults; they just are not enough. In the end, the wonky plot structure and near useless flashback scenes betray everything around them. In a way, Blood Red Sky feels defanged and undercooked. Is the pandemic to blame? Perhaps. Or it could be just as simple as the crew having no idea where to go with the concept beyond “vampires on a plane”.
Blood Red Sky is streaming on Netflix now.