Netflix’s new vampire thriller Blood Red Sky delivers ‘stakes on a plane’
Despite a great premise, Netflix’s latest exercise in maximalism misses the mark.
The premise of Blood Red Sky makes for a fantastic trailer.
Netflix’s latest original horror-thriller first appears to be a maternally minded thriller, as a mother and her young son board a transatlantic flight only to watch it be overrun by hijackers. Then, things get weird as the mild-mannered mother, Nadja (Peri Baumeister), reveals her terrifying secret: she’s actually a vampire. Cue Nosferatu-like prosthetics, buckets of fake blood, and loads of beloved horror-movie tropes.
The trailer spawned plenty of enthusiastic commentary on social media, with commentators dubbing it “Stakes on a Plane!” or “Die Hard with Vampires!” But as popular wisdom dictates, not every great trailer makes for a great movie. Unfortunately, Blood Red Sky is a prime example of this rule in action.
Blood Red Sky opens with its ending, showing as the British military handles the hijacked plane. A man in the pilot seat successfully lands the aircraft after being coached through doing so by air traffic control. But he refuses to disembark until he can explain his circumstances: the man has access to explosives on board, and he’s determined to blow them all sky high.
The only other survivor of the flight is Elias (Carl Anton Koch), a young boy who introduces the film’s primary narrative by recalling it in testimony through a translator. Elias explains that he was flying to America to meet with a doctor who would get rid of his mother’s “bad blood,” at which point Blood Red Sky launches into the first of many flashbacks. It’s through this structure that mother and son are first seen boarding the plane and befriending Farid (Kais Setti), another passenger who’s traveling to a conference.
When the hijacking happens, it doesn’t come as a surprise, just as Nadja unleashing her secret vampirism onto said hijackers carries less impact than it should, given that it was spoiled by the trailer. However, a few moments breathe undead life into this mishmash of tired premises.
A UV flashlight used to read invisible ink becomes a valuable tool for triggering a vampire’s light sensitivity. The hijackers frame other passengers for their crimes in a way that’s uncomfortably brave for such a schlocky film. The head hijacker makes an unexpected move with Nadja that levels the playing field instantly. Even the array of languages involved (mostly English with some German) reflect the new Netflix-approved method of courting a global audience.
But the main issue with Blood Red Sky is the sheer amount of story involved. Throughout her fight on the plane, we see unnecessary flashbacks to Nadja’s rebirth as a vampire, and Alexander Scheer’s head hijacker (known as “Eightball”) accidentally turns the vampire film into a zombie flick. At any given point, three plots run in parallel, and this narrative messiness is as exhausting as it is stimulating.
The three movies inside Blood Red Sky are: 1) a vampire film, 2) a survival thriller, and 3) an amalgamation of family drama, racial allegory, and character study. The first two stories alone are more than enough to carry a B-movie such as this. The third plot device serves no purpose besides distracting and confusing the viewer. Additionally, it’s hard to shake the sense that Blood Red Sky could have accomplished just as much, if not more, if its vampire element was a feature rather than the entire focus.
It’s clear Netflix did not make Blood Red Sky in hopes of delivering a nuanced drama. But the way this script reaches for greater meaning distracts from the claustrophobic cat-and-mouse thriller it could have been. Unfortunately, as all its plots pile up, the film does not come close to justifying its whopping two-hour runtime. Thank goodness Blood Red Sky is on Netflix — this is not a movie many are likely to finish in one sitting, if indeed they finish it at all.
Blood Red Sky is now streaming on Netflix.