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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Haunted Airman
The Haunted Airman
Entertainment One // R // October 13, 2009
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted October 21, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Taglines:

YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM THE THINGS YOU'VE DONE

TWILIGHT'S ROBERT PATTINSON FACES NEW HORRORS . . .

The Movie:

Clearly, the main selling point for the recently released The Haunted Airman is its main star, Robert Pattinson, who has become a near household name in some corners thanks to his teen girl heartthrob status as one of the leads in the popular Twilight series. However, this film is copyrighted 2006 by the BBC, predating the first Twilight by a couple years, and I suspect its original (and arguably more modest) selling point was that The Haunted Airman is an adaptation of Dennis Wheatley's The Haunting of Toby Jugg. Wheatley, of course, is best known for his supernatural novels, many of which have been turned into films over the years - perhaps the most notable being the Christopher Lee vehicle To the Devil a Daughter.

I've never read the Wheatley novel from which The Haunted Airman is based, so I can't judge how well it follows the book. However, I felt rather disappointed as a filmgoer with this BBC production (written and directed by Chris Durlacher). The premise may be interesting - but its execution left much to be desired.

Pattinson plays Flight Lieutenant Jugg, a World War II pilot removed from action after being severely wounded. Confined to a wheelchair, he is sent to convalesce at a remote mansion run by Dr. Hal Burns (Julian Sands - the guy from those old Warlock direct-to-video flicks a number of years ago). Jugg experiences hallucinations involving spiders, receives back rubs from a nurse, and chain-smokes incessantly. Rather than receive therapy from Dr. Burns, he'd prefer to be with his paramour - and aunt (by marriage) - Julia (Rachael Stirling). And that's about the long and the short of the movie, as the saying goes. Predictably, Dr. Burns, Julia, and Jugg form a love triangle - and Pattinson has the thankless job of sulking through the 67 minute run time.

The concept of The Haunted Airman is novel and intriguing, and I'd be curious as to how the events transpire in Wheatley's writing. Jugg's infatuation with his aunt is an especially unusual situation, and the premise of a veteran trapped in an asylum and forced to work out his demons offers suspenseful possibilities.

Here, however, the movie just seems lifeless and inert. Budget constraints leave the movie imprisoned largely at the estate grounds where Jugg is convalescing. While costumes may be accurate, I never felt transported to the 1940s. This came across more like a contemporary cast in a film using visual gimmickry - like blue-filtered shots which obscured events on screen, rapid edits, and unconvincing usage of stock footage for flashback sequences - to mask the fact that the script can't even sustain its comparatively brief running length. The performances aren't bad per se but they are perfunctory. Pattinson, especially, seems a bit listless here. The scares seem staged and unconvincing, and the drama is resolved in a hokey and unsatisfying conclusion.

All in all, The Haunted Airman is a slow-moving BBC production. I'm all about character-driven horror, and I wish there were more of it. However, this film has neither the script nor the staging to pull off the psychology effectively. Given its brief running time and lack of significant extras, I'd suggest The Haunted Airman would be best viewed as a rental, if you're curious at all about it.

The DVD

Video:

E1 Entertainment gives The Haunted Airman an anamorphic widescreen presentation with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that I believe probably represents its original television exhibition. There's a bit too much color manipulation in a lot of scenes, making the action a bit murky. Otherwise, the image quality seemed fine.

Sound:

The lone audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 affair. Dialogue is always clear, which is all that's really important here, as this is largely a talk-heavy movie.

Alternate subtitles are available in English.

Extras:

The lone extra is a trailer for The Haunted Airman.

Final Thoughts:

The Haunted Airman offers an interesting premise from an old Dennis Wheatley novel but little else. Given its short running time (just over an hour) and lack of extras, this 2006 BBC production starring Robert Pattinson would be best viewed as a rental by anyone curious about it.

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