The vampire subgenre has been done to death so many times over that it’s hard for anyone to put a fresh spin on the undead bloodsuckers without at least inviting comparisons to something that’s come before. While Netflix’s new horror thriller Blood Red Sky is incredibly derivative at points, it’s never of vampiric cinema, which is a credit to how director and co-writer Peter Thorwarth has bolted the highest of high concepts onto a setup and execution that Hollywood action movies have been pulling off in their sleep for decades.
If you’ve seen the trailers, then you think you might have a pretty solid idea of what Blood Red Sky is, and where it’s going. However, the footage is definitely not reflective of the finished product, and whether that’s for better or worse is entirely down to personal preference. One thing that can’t be denied is that the streamer has delivered a wholly unique and unexpected mashup anchored by a pair of fantastic performances from Peri Baumeister as afflicted mother Nadja and Chidi Ajufo as her precocious son Elias.
To give you an idea of how Blood Red Sky constantly goes out of its way to upend and subvert expectations, we’re almost an hour into the running time before the vampire madness kicks in, which includes opening with an unnecessary framing device that makes no difference were things to play out in chronological order, and several lenghty flashbacks that spell out things we could have easily inferred for ourselves later on.
The first act is often very slow to get moving, but it at least establishes the strength of the bond between Nadja and Elias, even though the youngster is fully aware of her condition and the untold danger it presents to both him and everyone that comes into their orbit. For the first half of Blood Red Sky, the most obvious comparison is From Dusk till Dawn, which began as one thing and then turned into something else entirely around the midway point at the flick of a switch.
The horror vibes are always lurking just beneath the surface, but Dominic Purcell and his gang of musclebound goons hijack a plane with vague motivations to frame the Muslim passengers and crash it into London in a trope ripped right from bargain basement territory, before Nadja decides to let her inner demons come out to play in bloody fashion. It’s from here on out that Blood Red Sky sets out its stall as a immensely enjoyable B-movie with A-list production values, throwing twists on top of turns as things continually escalate to the point of becoming absolutely preposterous, even for project with such a bonkers premise to begin with.
Name a star-powered actioner set in the skies, and there’s a 99% chance Blood Red Sky will remind you of it at some stage or another. If a melting pot of Passenger 57, Snakes on a Plane, Air Force One, Con Air and Executive Decision with vampires is your bag, then this is the movie for you. Admittedly, at just a shade over two hours it runs a good fifteen minutes longer than it really needs to, and falls into the increasingly popular trope of appearing to wrap up the narrative before tacking on one last final set piece for good measure, but once the fangs come out, it’s often nothing short of an insane delight.
At the end of the day, Blood Red Sky is about a plane with a vampire on it, which doesn’t sound as though it’ll open itself up to much of an emotional throughline, but you’d be dead wrong. The emotional crux from start to finish is always the bond between Elias and Nadja, with the latter becoming more and more feral as events continue to spiral out of control. It presents an intriguing Catch-22 situation for our intrepid heroine, who takes such a beating that she needs to feast on blood in order to survive the assault and become stronger, but each time she feeds it strips away another layer of her humanity.
Other than Baumeister and Ajufo, the rest of the ensemble are perfectly fine in their one-dimensional roles that don’t require much more from them than insults and exposition. However, somebody bring Alexander Scheer his MVP award, because that man deserves it. Blood Red Sky takes itself very seriously despite being a blatantly silly piece of work, and the rest of the characters act accordingly, with the sole exception of Scheer’s Eightball. He dials things up way past eleven and goes so broad and so theatrical that you can’t help but admire his dedication to going all-in, even when his own arc largely largely removes his flamboyant presence from proceedings.
Blood Red Sky is a violent, gory hybrid of thriller and horror about a hijacked plane that’s got a vampire on board, so it has to operate in a heightened level of fantasy to exist and thrive. That being said, there’s a surprising amount of emotional depth and several standout performances to elevate the entire operation above being hokey schlock despite a few glaring structural shortcomings, and it’s ideal fodder if you’re seeking a Friday night popcorn flick.
Blood Red Sky both is and isn't the movie you think it'll be, but it's perfectly suited for Friday night entertainment.