I consider myself to be a pretty fair critic. I pride myself in that, because I often read reviews that are so pretentiously cynical that I wonder if they’ve ever actually enjoyed watching a film. When I sit down to watch a film I am to review, I legitimately want to like it, even if there are people involved in the production that I’m normally not a fan of...
...I don’t think it’s fair to go into a film with a sour attitude with eyes already rolled into the back of one’s head. It’s really less of a pride thing and more of a rule I’ve developed for myself as a critic. I can’t become the thing I despise, so I make sure this rule is always at the forefront of my mind when watching a film. That being said, there are some films that force me to be the tough, hardened critic that I’m still very capable of being. Exorcism at 60,000 Feet is one of those films. Even so, every film deserves a proper review and this film is no different. Let’s find out how long I was able to maintain my golden rule.
A musical cue not unlike the simplistic piano melody from The Exorcist (1973) chimes in at the opening of the film to wink at us, confirming this is a spoof film. We meet Father Romero (Robert Miano) as he performs an exorcism by firing a cross-shaped gun into a possessed man (Bill Moseley). As Romero makes his exit, we see that he has done more harm than good, as all the residents of the home are dead. I guess that’s the punch line? After a painfully unfunny introduction to Romero’s character, we are jarringly transported to a transcontinental airliner. Here we meet a host of cartoonish characters on board, all representing offensive stereotypes. Of the most notables, Bai Ling plays Amanda, a trans flight attendant alongside her more subservient coworker, Thang (Matthew Moy). In the Cockpit we have horror veteran, Lance Henricksen as the captain, coupled with his copilot, Buzz (Kevin J. O’Connor) who is probably best known as “Beni” from The Mummy (1999). After the flight has been long underway, some of our characters mysteriously begin involuntarily inhaling a green, gassy mist that’s coming through the air ventilation. They become possessed and Father Romero must combat the evil on board. I won’t spoil it (not that it’s that big of a reveal) but there is a secret that Father Romero is keeping that could endanger the lives of all the passengers.
I was unamused by the first gag of the film, but some jokes just don’t hit right? I was willing to forgive it. At that point, my golden rule of optimism and fairness was still untouched, and the film had several chances left to win me over. Not long after the flight had begun I began to realize that every joke dealt with either a bodily function, sex, racist remarks, or gross-out gags. I’m not above a juvenile joke, but it has to contain something that’s at least clever. In this film, the humor might as well have been taken from a 3rd grader’s recess. Quite simply, it’s offensive and unfunny. A number of scenes deal with women being either completely devoid of intelligence or seen as sex objects. Racial and religious stereotypes are also a problem. One particular scene has a Jewish Rabbi explaining what meats are considered “kosher” to his travel companion, only to find a used tampon somehow cooked inside of his meal. It doesn’t stop there either. In disgust, he flings the tampon out of sight, but it lands in the mouth of a sleeping passenger and yes, he closes his mouth and swallows it. This is only one example of an entire film of scenes like this. By this point, my optimistic attitude had been broken. Still, giving up on a film is not an option. I still have Lance Henriksen to look forward to, right?
The biggest shame of the film is the complete waste of their talented cast. God bless Lance Henriksen for working as much and as hard as he does, but he’s rarely given the right material. His scenes are relegated to sitting in the cockpit drinking hard liquor and acting goofy. Because he’s Lance Henriksen, it’s hard to not enjoy him on screen. His presence is wasted, but it’s still nice to see him working and offering his charm. Bai Ling gets to do a bit more on the film and actually did get a few laughs out of me. I’ve always adored Ling and she looks absolutely terrific for her age. She has some character quirks that are pretty funny and the dynamic duo relationship she has with Thang makes for some of the film’s only laughs. Bill Moseley gets some added screen time later in the film, and although he is another work horse in the horror community, he ultimately isn’t given a lot to do besides look and act possessed. Many of these actors are incredible talents and I’m sure they enjoy working on some of these projects, but I hope they get to display their greatness in more fruitful projects in the future.
Director Chad Ferrin may not know how to make a good comedy, but he does know how to make a film look halfway decent. From the onset, it’s clear that Ferrin and company know how to use their meager budget wisely. The building that Father Romero enters at the beginning is a seamless transition, as the interior set is dressed to match the lighting and look of the outside location. Shots are also framed with symmetry and perspective in mind. Things are less stylish when we enter the airliner, but there’s only so much you can do with a set so contained. It doesn’t make it a better movie, but it certainly makes it more tolerable to look at.
I’m not usually offended by many things, but the level of crudeness, unfunny potty humor and insensitive racial stereotypes is staggering. I can get behind a comedy that’s politically incorrect and against the grain of the status quo, but there needs to be an undercurrent of something redeemable or some level of cleverness to the humor. It’s nice seeing Henriksen and Ling, but seeing actors you favor can’t save a film. When bodily functions, fluids and gross-out humor is your only card to play, you’re simply left with a bad movie. This is a film with bad taste when you’re watching it and an even worse aftertaste when you’re done.
Board Exorcism at 60,000 Feet when the film release on May 5th on Digital, VOD and Blu-ray/DVD from Scream Factory.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth