Netflix keep distributing high-concept movies with enough of a hook to draw you in, and I keep falling for it. Blood Red Sky is a German production (with a lot of English language to make it more accessible overseas), plus two familiar faces in actors Graham McTavish (Outlander) and Dominic Purcell (Prison Break). But it’s more the concept that sells this and makes you click ‘play’, as it concerns a plane hijacking where the criminals get more than they bargained for because one of the passengers is a vampire. That’s right, it’s Die Hard-meets-From Dusk till Dawn—or ‘Stakes on a Plane’?—although the film swirling around in your imagination exceeds anything director Peter Thorwarth puts together.
A widow called Nadja (Peri Baumeister) is travelling to the US with her precocious young son, Elias (Carl Anton Koch), in the hope of receiving life-saving treatment for her leukaemia. Unfortunately, their plane is hijacked by a group of men mid-flight, and everyone ordered to stay quiet until a ransom is paid. Their plot involves faking the circumstances of what happened, by forcing a passenger of Middle Eastern descent, Farid (Kais Setti), to record a statement making it appear the plane was hijacked by terrorists preparing for a suicide attack.
It’s perhaps a mild spoiler to read further, but Nadja is apparently shot and killed by a hijacker called ‘Eightball’ (Alexander Scheer) while trying to find a safe place to hide with her boy… only for us to realise she’s the vampire. (There were no other suspects, to be fair, even if the one-sheet poster makes you think Nadja and the vampire will be separate characters.) The rest of Blood Red Sky is a fairly generic action movie in the tradition of Passenger 57 (1992)—which starred Blade!—or Non-Stop (2014). It’s a competently made example for a lower-budget movie, but the welcome injection of supernatural horror doesn’t elevate things further. It’s also a slight problem that, frankly, Nadja’s vampiric form (bald, fanged) evokes one of Roald Dahl’s witches more than a frightening modern-day Nosferatu.
Thorwarth and co-writer Stefan Holtz were aware that putting a vampire in the midst of a hijacking comes with problems, as you don’t want that character to be too much for anyone to cope with. But de-powering Nadja means she loses her sense of threat within moments of her introduction, as the hijackers instantly assume she’s a vampire and therefore susceptible to UV light. Matters do get crazier later on, when other vampires are spawned, but there are too many periods when you’re missing the sense of fun from movie with a premise this outrageous. There’s one tense and enjoyable set-piece involving a bullet-proof vehicle in the cargo hold, a hole in its windshield, flammable liquid, and a match, but not much else that sticks in the memory.
Blood Red Sky also suffers from how the writers tell the story, because the first scene shows the hijacked plane landing safely at an RAF airbase in Scotland, so the majority of the film is actually a flashback. But that robs the inflight story of tension, as we know the plane isn’t going to crash, or blow up, or perhaps even reach New York as intended. The writers were also understandably concerned setting the film exclusively inside a plane would be boring, or too much of a challenge to keep interesting, so there are more flashbacks to explain how Nadja became a vampire. I’m not a fan of films that contain flashbacks-within-flashbacks! And while the vampiric origin of Nadja is entertaining, it’s nothing one couldn’t have assumed, or have been happy leaving to the imagination.
There are moments that work, a few good surprises, and the performances are decent, but for a concept this juicy it’s disappointing so much about it feels tedious. The story does have a better third act, but there’s a chance your attention will have wandered enough times to have lost a sense of connection to what’s happening. Blood Red Sky is one of the better Netflix original movies, but it’s still another example of how they seem to choose things to distribute that are an easy sell (vampire on a plane!), can make a persuasive trailer, has a few ‘that guy’ actors to spot, but are ultimately direct-to-video nonsense you can stream once and forget about. A better film resides inside your head, so maybe just leave it there.
GERMANY • USA | 2021 | 121 MINUTES | 2:1 2.35:1 | COLOUR | GERMAN • ENGLISH
Cast & Crew
director: Peter Thorwarth.
writers: Peter Thorwarth & Stefan Holtz.
starring: Roland Møller, Peri Baumeister, Chidi Ajufo, Alexander Scheer, Graham McTavish & Dominic Purcell.