Thursday, September 4, 2008

TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL... Satan Is Their Motor... Why Cultists Are Goofy As All Giddy-Out

So, here I was in need of something to do. Any strenuous activity was out, as I had already expended the day's energy chasing down my dog and putting out a few stay fires around the house (always good to jump on that right away). I had already been reading a bit and now my brain desired a little downtime. Suppose I could watch the Republican Conventions but I wanted brainlessness, not rampant ignorance and hypocrisy. Besides, I had spent the better part of the week unsuccessfully trying to avoid their B.S. spin as they trotted out candidates they themselves didn't believe in. Looks like it's the movie channels.

Good thing the third and so far last TURBULENCE movie was starting on Cinemax. Yeah, good thing. Just swell.

I had seen the original TURBULENCE shortly after it came out. Sure it looked horrible, but I had a short-lived semi-crush on Lauren Holly at the time thanks to PICKET FENCES. Besides, it had Ray Liotta in it. This guy starred in GOODFELLAS. Ray Liotta didn't do trashy movies. This was just as Liotta decided to spend the next ten years showing just how low he could sink. Of course, TURBULENCE turned out to be hilariously bad, a bizarre hybrid of AIRPORT '75 and PASSENGER 57 with Liotta chewing so much scenery, you'd swear it was made out of pie crust.

But even the makers of TURBULENCE look like Thomas Pychon compared to the knuckleheads that cooked up TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL.

There is nothing in common with previous TURBULENCE films, except that there is a plane in jeopardy. One might think that meant they got no name actors to appear in this film. You'd be half right. They didn't get Liotta sure, but they did sucker some people with frequent flyer miles and got them to appear in what is sure to be damn near a career lowpoint for all. Most conspicuous is Joe Mantegna, one of David Mamet's favorite actors and Springfield's own Fat Tony. He's been made into a character actor over the years. These days, rather than look at the scripts, he seems to be trying to set some sort of record for busiest actor in the world by taking whatever project lands in his lap. In the last ten years, he has appeared in nearly sixty projects. Those are Debbie Rochon numbers, folks! Also in the cast is Gabrielle Anwar, who had a promising start in the famous tango scene from SCENT OF A WOMAN. Unfortunately, she was never able to capitalize on that success and while she is still a top-billed actress, it's in small and often rather bland projects. Along for the ride is Craig Schieffer, no stranger to straight-to-video entertainment, it's easy for folks to forget that he featured in films like A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. But who am I kidding? I would much rather watch a cheesefest like TURBULENCE 3 than A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. I saved the best for last. Rutger Hauer, who will never stop being one of the coolest things walking, no matter how many bad movies he appears in, has one doozy of a part. He plays the co-pilot of the plane, who is actually the leader of a Satanic cult. Oh yes, we really need to address this plot so you can understand why this is so much more interesting than the same old disaster movie formula.

First of, I have to tell you what I think of Satanists. Being a fan of horror films, you might think I take these guys seriously. After all, there are some very dangerous people out there with some crazy ideas. But let's just put this all on the table, most so-called Satanists are so unintentionally campy, they're hilarious. These guys don't have a clue for the most part. Check out the old services by Anton Lavey and you won't see a glimpse into the dark side, you'll see a bald dork in a devil costume hanging out with drugged-out naked chicks. It's pure theatre and it's not even good theatre. Devil worship may have darkened it's colors over the years, but it's most vocal proponents are still idiots in makeup prancing around talking about darkness without really grasping what true darkness is. Darkness is murder and mayhem true, it's also everything negative in the world, meaning everything that pisses these guys off in the first place. Feeling persecuted? Too bad, because without even realizing it, you are serving that same force. There aren't white hats and black hats out there, waging a battle with magic. I'm a comic book geek and even I find the prospect ridiculous. There is however forces of positive and negative energy and without getting preachy, I will say that the guys who think their rebellion is based around playing dress up are so absurd they wind up being kind of adorable.

Flashback to 2001, when people were scared to death of Marilyn Manson. Okay, actually this was a couple years behind the times even then, but bear with us. I should point out that despite what I said about people who claim to be real Satanists, I'm on board with people like Manson. He continues a fine tradition set up by people like Alice Cooper before him. Manson is well aware what he does is theatre and fortunately, he has some amazing tunes to back it up. Today, even though most people have moved on, I'm still a fan. In TURBULENCE 3, they have a Marilyn Manson-type horror shock rocker amusingly named Slade Craven - a name so metal you can't even say it without grabbing your crotch and sacrificing a kitten to the unholy lords of the underworld. Go on, try it. Just don't come complaining to me when the SPCA comes calling.

Craven is all set to give a concert on board an airplane as it flies at 30,000 feet and stream the broadcast over a slow Internet connection. After all, what better place to hold a special effects heavy heavy metal concert than in the middle of a tiny thin airborne tube? And what better way to make sure the effect of being there is completely lost than by webcasting it on 2001-era Internet technology?

Well, even this doesn't go according to plan. Not only is there a dangerous storm underway (which really doesn't endanger anyone too much), but a group of terrorists have infiltrated the plane. But not just any terrorists, nope we're talking members of a Satanic cult that does it's recruiting from the friggin' Internet. They are so clever in their infiltration that their number includes Rutger the co-pilot, another member of the audience and a Slade Craven lookalike, and... well, okay that's it. It is said, they have murderous accomplices on the ground, but don't sweat it because this plot point is never resolved. The Satanists kidnap and tie the real Slade Craven up in the cargo hold and accuse him of being a false prophet. The lookalike takes his place and takes the plane hostage while the plane sets itself on a crash course for Kansas. I wondered if this would really be a big loss to the world, but then I'm a bit more cynical than I used to be.

Meanwhile, Joe Mantegna stands in the control center for the webcast and talks to the fake Craven and remains completely ineffectual throughout the entire film. One of his agents (Anwar) had been dispatched earlier to arrest a hacker (Scheffer) who illustrates how rebellious he is by sporting a goofy bandanna and a soul patch. It soon becomes clear however that the hacker may be the only one who can help the people on the plane. It makes moderately more sense when you watch the film.

Mantegna, Scheffer and Anwar all spend their scenes in small rooms which probably means they were able to film their scenes in record time. It manages to hold it's budget well because the average person might not realize they are simply switching between three small and sparsely populated sets.

TURBULENCE 3 is a sloppy, stupid, goofy ride from beginning to end. It's not a truly wonderful film for the AWS mold. It lacks the gratuitous sex and/or violence and also lacks the fun sense of adventure. What is does have are some amazingly out-out-touch goth and metal stereotypes throughout. It also boasts enough logic-defying moments to be an amusing time waster.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get my red satin devil outfit from the dry cleaners.