Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: A woman with a mysterious illness is forced into action when a group of men attempt to hijack a transatlantic overnight flight.
Review: While watching Blood Red Sky one thing kept popping into my mind—it’s been a while since I’ve seen a vampire story with some real bite to it (pun intended). The last time, coincidentally, was also courtesy Netflix, namely BBC’s Dracula limited series which was heavily inspired by the Hammer studio classics and gave us arguably the best depiction of Dracula we’ve seen in decades. Which brings me to Blood Red Sky, a German movie which knows vampires are at their best when they’re scaring the crap out of you and not when they’re fangless pretty boys who creepily seduce teenage girls by shimmering in the sun like a glitter-covered stripper.
The strength of this film lies in its first half. It wastes no time establishing our main characters and the actors who do a wonderful job of bringing them to life. Peri Baumeister (who, by the way, was giving me some serious Noomi Rapace vibes) plays Nadja, a single mother who is suffering with an unnamed disease. I love that opening shot of her standing in front of the mirror without her wig on. If you went into this movie never having seen the trailer (which I recommend avoiding as it gives away WAY too much) you might think she’s suffering with cancer. Nadja and her young caring son Elias have to travel to the United States so she can undergo an experimental treatment, with the hopes of curing her affliction.
Elias looks to be no more than eight or nine years-old but director Peter Thorwarth and his writing partner Stefan Holtz don’t waste audiences’ time with heavy exposition. Instead they give us moments like Elias checking their luggage with the airline on his own to show this is a child who has had to grow up fast, and who is smart and capable enough to handle things kids his own age would never have to. We also meet Farid, played by Kais Setti, a physicist travelling on the same plane who meets Elias and quickly takes a liking to this smart kid.
The first half of the movie also doesn’t waste time getting to the meat of things either, as hijackers led by a man named Berg (Dominic Purcell) take over the plane. When a psychotic, clearly unhinged hijacker named Eightball “kills” Nadja, things start to go from bad to worse as Nadja’s condition is revealed to be vampirism. She desperately tries to protect her son while still trying to keep the plane heading to America, but the more she’s forced to kill the more vampiric she becomes.
The makeup effects and design choices for Nadja’s appearance brings to mind another German vampire movie, or should I say the most iconic of vampire movies and the one that arguably started it all, 1922’s Nosferatu. She’s not meant to be sexy or desirable; instead, like the vampires from the original legends, she’s monstrous. With bat-like ears, no body hair, yellowed animal teeth and fangs (damn, I’ve missed seeing fangs. Seriously, why have they stopped showing vampires with fangs?!) Nadja is a monster, on the surface at least, because at her core she’s a woman and a mother who once had a beautiful life only to have it all go horrifically wrong one cold snowy night.
Sadly, the movie loses its deeper themes and well-earned emotional depth as it progresses. To make way for the blood, gore and action they lose sight of the human connections needed to keep viewers invested and the film ironically devolves just as Nadja does. The hijackers here are brutal and efficient but with the exception of the one called Eightball, we never get any sense of who they are or even why they’re doing what they’re doing (I”m still not sure what their mission was). Alexander Scheer, who played the gleefully deranged Eightball, makes it fun and easy to hate his character but he outshines all of the other underdeveloped villains here, surprisingly including Dominic Purcell (Prison Break, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) who Western audiences would be more familiar with. Then again, this is a German movie so maybe to them it didn’t matter.
As a whole, Blood Red Sky is one of the better vampire movies out there. The story of a mother’s fight against a terrifying illness as she tries to provide a safe and loving life for her only child is one a lot of people can relate to. And using vampirism as an allegory for diseases, while not new, was still a smart and effective choice. Sadly these wonderful elements give way to generic action beats in the latter half to the point that even with such an emotional ending the movie loses a lot of the goodwill it built up early on. I would also recommend watching it in German with subtitles as the dubbing is some of the dodgiest I’ve seen in some time.
It’s no instant classic, but if you’re looking for a vampire movie and have no desire to watch some tween-centric romance between a girl with the personality of plastic wrap and a vampire who never saw a bottle of hair mousse he didn’t like (god I hate those damn movies) then you could do a lot worse than Blood Red Sky.
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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