Sadly, this is not a review of the 1993 skate-themed teen drama with Shane McDermott and Seth Green. This is, instead, a review of a straight-to-video British horror/thriller by the same name. There are three excellent taglines on the box. #1: “Come die with me.” #2: “Sit back. Relax. Survive the flight.” #3: “You my experience a sudden loss of life.” The third is perhaps my favorite.
This flick is low-budget, cheap, and is not really notable for too many reasons. Its European pedigree doesn’t elevate it anywhere above any of its similar Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie cousins. It is only distinguishable from most cable TV movies by its occasional use of the f-word, and a moment or two of blood. Otherwise, it’s a bland and largely uneventful thriller that is disappointingly low on mayhem and nudity, especially given how weird the plot becomes about halfway through.
So the setup is this: Mark Hamill (yes, Mark Hamill) plays an American air traffic controller in London who sends one final plane off to New York. On board is a smattering of recognizable types. There’s a panicky guy, a rich blowhard, a priest, etc. The scholarly type is played by Julian Glover from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The pretty stewardess is played by busty lad-mag cover model Gemma Atkinson, the fantasy object of scores of British youths. There is something sinister about someone on the flight, although the film kind of eschews who is up to what. And really it doesn’t matter. All we know is there’s something fishy going on. People sneak off to unfilled parts of the plane (unfilled planes in 2012? I don’t think so), where they promptly vanish. Eventually it’s revealed that two of the characters – previously unconnected – were planning on hijacking the plane, and on stealing a valuable artifact on board. Straightforward enough. Theft on a plane. I’ve seen that kind of movie before.
But then there’s the oddball added bonus plot point. It turns out that the valuable artifact is also housing an ancient malevolent Chinese deity who is possessing the people on the plane and either committing murder or suicide. It’s very, very, very unclear what the spirit wants, why it’s possessing people, or indeed what the hell it’s doing most of the time. The spirit is only represented by a brief flash in a person’s eyes. There are no other special effects.
I feel that if a film has a really low budget like this one clearly does, and it’s going to disguise an ancient evil ghost in the bodies of its actors, then making the film somewhat slick and semi-professional looking is actually doing the material a disservice. This kind of story is better suited to the stodgy and static filmmaking style of 1950s B-features. I admire that Airborne tried to shoot for a somber tone with its moody lighting and ominous music, but the moody tone only serves as a juxtaposition to the film’s clear lack of monster budget. A reminder to all budget filmmakers: If you aren’t going to film your monster, you must – yes, must – fall back on the two cheapest special effects in cinema: stage blood and bare breasts. And if you’re going to cast Gemma Atkinson, put her in a bikini for goodness’ sake. Then have her shoot someone, or spike them with a high-heeled shoe. Yes, all that can happen on a plane.
I’d rather see that movie.