Flight 7500 marks another in a line of celebrated horror directors who took to the skies for a departure from their previous flicks, a lineage that includes Wes Craven's tense thriller Red Eye and Child's Play director Tom Holland's adaptation of a Stephen King novel, The Langoliers. This time, it's the supernatural mind of Japanese director Takashi Shimizu filling the cabin, whose affinity for specters and curses -- found in the likes of The Grudge and Marebito -- suggests that we could be in for an eerie, tense spin on the haunted genre. None of that expected atmosphere or scariness actually manifests in Flight 7500, where an abundance of shallow characters and a lack of genuine scare tactics result in eighty minutes of tedious build-up, eventually crash-landing in a proverbial and overly-foreshadowed twist ending.
An eclectic group of travelers file into their double-decker liner jet for the long trip from Los Angeles to Tokyo. It's a lighter flight to be dealt with by the crew, but there are just enough oddballs aboard to make things interesting between the attendants' gossip about forthcoming weddings and flings with pilots. After prolonged stretches of chatter between the occupants leading to the middle of the flight, strange and unexplainable things start to happen aboard the plane following some weather turbulence, putting the safety of the passengers in check as the crew responds to the issues. The more suspicious of the travelers independently look into what's happened and into the other afflicted passengers, unearthing a few dark clues that send them suspiciously scouring the plane for answers to the apparent supernatural events.
Despite the flight being called "light" by the attendants, Flight 7500 navigates between a large number of passengers and their quirks, probably about double the amount you'd encounter in a standard bodycount flick. Because there are so many, director Shimizu only has enough time to pass over their behaviors, resulting in superficial typecasts at best. Ryan Kwanten musters a blank-slate paramedic lacking the goofy charm of his run in True Blood or the gristle of his Aussie flicks, while The Butterfly Effect's Amy Smart plays his ex in much the same way, producing a dour broken-up couple lamenting wasted time. Leslie Bibb's flight attendant deviates little from airline stereotypes amid her dead-end affair with a married pilot. The others -- a death-obsessed goth (Scout Taylor-Compton); a petty thief (Alex Frost) decrying baby boomers; a snooty germophobe (Nicky Whelan) with no verbal filter and a disgruntled new husband (Jerry Ferrara) -- force their personalities out through conversation with such quick, brute force that they becomes caricatures of who they represent. These aren't actual characters; they're cogs in a machine.
The purposes served by the passengers aren't what you'd expect , either: a lot of time gets dedicated to their banal conversations about mortality, mistakes, frustration with the status quo, and wasted time. As a result, Flight 7500 can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a horror movie or a type of existential drama, setting up the airplane to be a spooky funhouse for supernatural oddities while droning on about its profound subject matter. Therefore, when one of the passengers dies under peculiar circumstances and sparks the mystery that'll ultimately involve their unique viewpoints, it leaves the film's tone in a strange and somewhat pretentious space between semi-serious reflection on their squandered lives and wondering who might be the plane's next victims. Any seriousness goes out the window, though, when it's mentioned that someone's "ill" on the plane, followed by the body being carried down the aisle by crew members ... almost exactly like that scene from Airplane.
Flight 7500 doesn't seem all that concerned with generating terror throughout its brief but laborious runtime, instead staying focused on cruising toward the revelations behind what's happening aboard the plane. Between all the conversations hammering their existential points home and the fact that a renowned Twilight Zone episode begins playing on the headrest televisions, director Shimizu prepares those watching -- quite thoroughly -- for the explanations behind what's really going on during the flight, and for them to be out-there in nature. What was already a dull mystery with little tension descends into an even duller, mostly nonsensical plot twist, getting lost while trying to provide meaning to those meandering interpersonal chats during the flight to Tokyo. Between tiresome passengers and incessant forewarnings, Flight 7500 eventually reaches its final destination feeling like nothing but dead weight.
Video and Audio:
Flight 7500 arrives from Lionsgate in a 1.78:1-framed, 16x9-enhanced transfer that's, at its best, indicative of the mood designed by Takashi Shimizu: dim and grim. Before the lights go out on the plane, the transfer exhibits low saturation of color and an overly dark appearance, even considering the fact that events take place during the night. Detail isn't too shabby in close-ups, though, focusing on details in skin, in garments like leather and flight attendant scarves, and in the grain of a wood box. Once the lights go out, however, the visual experience largely becomes a wash, suffering from crushing black levels, even lower saturation, and general haziness. This very well could be the director's intent, but it makes for a fairly washed-out viewing experience.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment fares better than the visuals, with the rattling of a plane in turbulence often testing both the upper-end and lower-end sonic levels. Verbal clarity is always top-shelf, if a bit thin for female voices and slightly rumbling for lower-level male voices. Subtler sounds like the clicking of seatbelts, the rustling of plastic bags while gathering trash, and the rush of air and engines for ambience are clear as a whistle, while music comes across as a dominant guiding force of the mood at many points during the track, always direct and only occasionally imbalanced with the ongoing sound effects. Aside from a few assertive bangs in the cabin here and there, however, that's about all there is to the sound design and a fine but unremarkable track. English and Spanish subs are available.
A quick Inside Flight 7500 (4:36, 16x9) press-kit featurette has been included. It's mostly plot/ atmosphere explanation and congratulatory banter from the actors during their interviews, but it also includes a few nice behind-the-scenes looks at the erected airplane sets.
You're not missing anything if you can't catch the unsatisfying characters, flat-lining tension, and trite mystery behind Flight 7500. Skip It.