The Haunted Airman (2006)

OCTOBER 29, 2009


I guess the title The Haunted Airman is technically accurate, but when you play up the film’s horror angle (and point out that “Twilight’s Robert Pattinson is facing new horrors” on the DVD case), I think it’s a bit shitty that he is only being haunted by his own personal demons; save for some nonsense with spiders, the film as a whole is largely horror free.

Basically, the movie is about a guy with some serious post-war trauma to deal with, and little else. Pattinson is fine, but for a movie based on a novel, it’s surprisingly thin on plot and action. Clocking in at just 70 minutes, it still feels padded, and the ending is maddeningly obtuse to boot. I have never read the novel, but I know that author Dennis Wheatley is held in high regard, so I have to assume the filmmakers failed to adapt it properly, or that the novel simply didn’t lend itself to a cinematic interpretation.

And it’s a shame, because I can definitely see an interesting, and yes, SCARY movie in there somewhere. Pattinson’s character may be crazy or he may be seeing ghosts; his shrink may be trying to help, or he may be making him worse; Pattinson may be fucking his aunt (by marriage), he may just be fantasizing about doing so (and if so I can’t say I blame him - Rachael Stirling is stunning). Lot of questions, lot of possibilities for a Jacob’s Ladder style mind trip, albeit set during World War II instead of Vietnam/Iraq. But no, writer/director Chris Durlacher settles for endless scenes of Pattinson rolling his wheelchair around the mansion-like hospice where the entire film is set, occasionally running afoul of spiders. It culminates in a scene that might be tragic had I known for sure what the motives of the involved parties were.

It’s unfortunate that I have been spoiled by several terrific WWII-set horror films, such as Pan’s Labyrinth, Below, and Jeff Burr’s underrated Straight Into Darkness. The ghastliness of the war as a whole lends itself nicely to traditional horror concepts (in this case, a would-be “Hospital that might make you worse” thriller), but the film never really explores this parallel; after the opening scene the war is hardly mentioned at all, which is a waste of a good backdrop (not to mention a baffling choice in terms of the period setting - why go to all of the trouble to set it 60 years ago and not use the actual time period in any meaningful way? The film could just have easily been set now with Pattinson a wounded veteran of any of our current wars).

The disc has no extras whatsoever, so I’ll probably never know the particulars of why this movie manages to waste every opportunity it has to be compelling. I’m sure Pattinson nuts will love it, since he’s in pretty much every frame of the film, and has a lengthy (yet PG-13) love scene for them to drool over. But for everyone else? Even Twilight delivered more horror, not to mention basic entertainment.

What say you?

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