Friday, May 13, 2011

One A Week Reviews #19:Turbulence II: Fear of Flying

I know it's Friday the 13th, my lovelies, and I'm saving all my Jason Voorhees-centric reviews for October, since I'm one of those silly reviewers who plans to try his hand at "31 Horror Reviews for Halloween." Even if I hadn't done it two years ago it'd be unoriginal. Ah, well. Instead of the usual tricks, I thought you deserved a Friday the 13th treat instead. This is one of the best straight-to-DVD sequels I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. I hope you'll enjoy it too...

Woo-hoo, but I do love me a good trashy airplane thriller. Once you've seen Airport '77 with Miss Karen Black flying that plane, cross-eyed, in a desperate attempt to save Gloria Swanson and Linda Blair, you know you'll always have a soft spot in your heart for these stupid, star-packed thrillers that play on everyone's fear of flying. Be it Skyjacked or Murder on Flight 502, you know this is a genre close to my heart.

The fact that I generally require an Ativan and Bloody Mary for a simple two hour jaunt to Orlando has no bearing on this whatsoever, I swear...

My friend and occasional editor Dan over at Exploitation Retrospect has a great piece on how the Turbulence series actually improves on the original (which I only dimly remember but do recall liking), so I knew I had to check it out. It starts out in mid-air with a "fear of flying" therapy group on what looks to be a grossly undersold jetliner. When one passenger has a wig-out over a little bump or two, the group is revealed to actually be on a simulator.

The group, who also seem to be deeply agoraphobic, include Craig Sheffer, Jennifer Beals and Jeffrey Nordling, who's ominous British accent makes me immediately assume he's the bad guy. Sheffer's Martin seems to be a stat-spitting techie-nerd of some sort, as he owns a laptop in 1999, knows all the trivia necessary to keep the plot moving forward and whips out morbid crash stats. Jessica (Beals) hopes to become a flight attendant and has dated our Brit, Elliot. Meanwhile we cut away to someone making some kind of bomb and checking through to Flight 110.

In 2011, the ease and comfort of boarding the plane, with family who leads you to the gate, seems like a quaint memory. I, for one, miss being met at the gate. Getting picked up at the curb has never been as satisfying as finding family waiting for you to walk off the ramp. Our scaredy-cat passengers also get the walk the tarmac, seeing the luggage loaded and de-icing happen. This feels more like a fantasy than anything else. At this point a hijacking plot's also precious.

The flight gets held up with a few spare characters to fill out the set, some super-surly looking Eastern European thugs, and a substitute flight attendant in an ominously bad wig. A character with lots of jetliner technical knowledge who's been through a tragedy (yeah, the writers of Flight Plan saw this). All this and stews threatening a lousy, bumpy weather forecast? Bad airline thriller fans are ready for the fun to begin.

So, all the pieces are in place. The threat of a hijacking, some kind of weapon, a bunch of characters who're going to be miserable... is it satisfying? More satisfying than Elliot and Jessica's stab at joining the Mile High Club. Soon enough, we have a bomb, an incapacitated crew, murder, a nasty storm, and an overly serious Tom Berenger as the super-serious Air Traffic Controller (in one chintzy-ass tower) of the George Kennedy/Robert Stack school.

I love an overstuffed movie, and this one is jammed to the gills. The only thing missing is the "All-Star" cast it demands. By the time the extras are lighting up Camels from the stress I was absolutely hooked. This is one Class-A B-movie. Never mid the plot holes big enough to fly a Boeing through, this is still an amazing, stupid amount of fun. What it lacks in a campy cast is made up for in escalating lunacy. By the end, you're giddy from the overblown plot, dialogue ("Thank God for tobacco companies. This is one bad habit that's gonna save our lives.") and acting. Did I mention that there's about three more endings than a lesser movie would dare have? If you enjoy the pleasures of Nineties B-movies, I can't stress enough just how good this is.

Also, I have never had the pleasure of flying on a plane with aisles as wide as those on this set. How come these films never take place on a Southwest flight?

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