Previously known for comedies, “Bang Boom Bang” director Peter Thorwarth is directing the film BLOOD RED SKY his first horror action thriller for the streaming service Netflix. We’ll reveal in our review whether his genre change was successful.
OT: Blood Red Sky (DE/USA 2021)
Nadja (Peri Baumeister) and her ten-year-old son Elias (Carl Koch) are on board a night flight from United Kingdom to New York, where Nadja is to receive medical treatment. On this flight, of all places, there are terrorists who manage to take control of the cockpit. The people on board are unsettled, suspecting the motives – and soon realize that the violent terrorists are having diabolical fun torturing the passengers. But the attackers didn’t count on Nadja and her secret: she is a vampire and unleashes all her power to eliminate the terrorists…
It’s not difficult to cheer for “Blood Red Sky” internally once you’ve looked into the background: It’s a USA genre film with a proud budget of around twelve million euros. Something like that is a rarity, and anyone who wants the local film landscape to have (even) more variety beyond comedies, family films and historical dramas can hardly avoid keeping their fingers crossed for “Blood Red Sky” at least to some extent. Furthermore, this is a film in which the director moves out of his comfort zone: Peter Thorwarth was known for Ruhrpott cult films such as “Bang Boom Bang” and “What doesn’t fit will be made to fit” and also moved with his two recent films “Not My Day” and “The Last Bull” are not far from his early works. The fact that Thorwarth is now daring to do something new demands respect. And then this is also a long-held passion project: As Thorwarth revealed in the “Sträter Bender Streberg” podcast, he carried the basic idea with him for over 15 years and had a kind of unofficial competition with Dennis Gansel, who has also been making female-led vampire films for a long time wanted. In terms of time, Gansel clearly won the race: his “We are the night” premiered in 2010. In terms of reach, Thorwarth will be able to pat himself on the back, because “We are the night” fell flat with 106,318 tickets sold at the time and has so far been denied a significant, late surge in popularity. It would be a shock if “Blood Red Sky,” which is being broadcast globally on Netflix, reaches fewer people than Gansel’s film with Karoline Herfurth and Nina Hoss.
Peri Baumeister’s vampire make-up is one of the highlights of the film.
And qualitatively? Well, we would hardly have emphasized in such detail here that one hopes, “Blood Red Sky” would be really convincing if it were really convincing. Because Peter Thorwarth and his co-author Stefan Holtz, who has worked with him repeatedly, have succeeded in individual set pieces, but all in all “Blood Red Sky” bumps and rumbles a lot. Among other things, because the genre clash inspired by the Robert Rodriguez cult hit “From Dusk till Dawn” doesn’t work as such. Instead, it feels like the uneven composite of two half-films: a supernatural drama about a vampire mother struggling to care for her human child, and a plane hijacking thriller with a vampire twist. The first part occasionally shines through between the action passages, which are unfortunately very monotonously staged and therefore quickly become annoying and lame, but it primarily comes into its own in the flashbacks. And they are both disturbing and the most interesting thing about the film. When Thorwarth taciturnly shows how Nadja, played by Peri Baumeister, cares for her boy and repeatedly despairs because of the supernatural discrepancy between them, he finds a less explored and therefore refreshing perspective on the vampire subject. And the director, who usually lives more from the dialogue jokes in his films, proves that he is able to base a scene solely on the facial expressions and gestures of an actress. You can also forgive the somewhat clunky overuse of blue-green-gray filters and the clichéd use of soft focus.
“‘Blood Red Sky’ feels like the uneven composite of two half-movies: a supernatural drama about a vampire mother struggling to care for her human child, and a plane hijacking thriller with a vampire twist.”
But: These flashbacks are crowbarred into the action thriller plot and repeatedly slow down its narrative dynamics with their not exactly short running time. Perhaps a chronological narrative would have been more appealing (even if the film then had its marketing gimmick “Vampires on a plane!” should have been relegated to the second half). This way the audience would also be more emotionally involved in the mother-son relationship. It gets very shaky on the plane because the boy (non-verbal great, a bit clumsy in longer dialogue passages: Carl Anton Koch) is disturbed by his mother’s monster form – even if he doesn’t hide a certain pride in her active fight against the terrorists leaves. Showing this only as a big pay-off after the more intimate challenges, which in “Blood Red Sky” are instead conveyed bit by bit in the flashbacks, would not distract from the aforementioned monotony of the action scenes. However, the focus would be more on a gripping, unusual character dynamic, instead of on the “‘Air Force One’, only it’s not a president fighting against the terrorists, but a vampire” gimmick that Thorwarth tackles so doggedly that its fun factor and appeal disappears far too quickly get lost.
Only a few scenes in “Blood Red Sky” take place outside of the airplane setting.
After all: leading actress Peri Baumeister (“Our time is now”) convincingly combines the gentle-caring and the demonic-dogged (and biting) side of her role, even when Thorwarth just lets her bark, scream and bare her teeth for minutes. The fact that she achieved the “Nosferatu”-esque make-up also helps immensely with this transformation. However, it also makes it abundantly clear how much weaker the make-up effects are on the supporting characters – and this is one of the better aspects of “Blood Red Sky” when you look at the supporting characters. Because with them, bulky overacting prevails, which, however, is free of the lively popcorn spectacle energy of “Con Air” or “Air Force One”, and therefore doesn’t really convey the joy of playing, but more like “I’m trying to shoulder the whole scene on my own, and get ahead of myself” sounds. Kai’s Setti alone stands out positively as the medically experienced passenger Farid al Adwa, who falls victim to prejudice and genuinely cares for Elias’ safety. These are not enough positive points to outweigh the slow, paralyzing downsides of the film. Unfortunately. And yet we hope that Thorwarth tries his hand at genre cinema again. Anything that doesn’t work the first time is tried until Bang! Boom! It fits on a good day.
“The main actress, Peri Baumeister, convincingly combines the gentle, caring and the demonic, dogged (and biting) side of her role, even when Thorwarth just lets her bark, scream and bare her teeth for minutes.”
Conclusion: “Blood Red Sky” is a horror-action thriller in which the action passages are sluggish and monotonous, and the quietly dramatic horror scenes are clumsily shoved into the thriller story. This can hardly add value to the Baumeister, which is once again worth seeing. A pity.
“Blood Red Sky” is now available to stream on Netflix.