FLIGHT 7500 (2014)

Flight 7500.jpg

Studio:       Lionsgate
Director:    Takashi Shimizu
Writer:       Craig Rosenberg
Producer:  Taka Ichise, Roy Lee
Stars:     Leslie Bibb, Jamie Chung, Jerry Ferrara, Ryan Kwanten, Amy Smart, Scout Taylor-Compton, Christian Serratos, Nicky Whelan, Johnathon Schaech, Alex Frost, Rick Kelly

Review Score:



Passengers aboard an overseas flight find themselves haunted by a supernatural presence following the death of a mysterious man.



NOTE: "Flight 7500" was previously titled "7500."

The year was 2012.  January was not quite over and “7500” already had a Facebook page and teaser trailer making the Internet rounds.  Regular social media updates culminated in April, when the film was advertised as “coming soon to theaters!”  Two days later, a “7500” sweepstakes was announced, presumably as the start of a soon-to-be-abandoned promotional campaign.  That plug turned out to be the last real word on the movie as CBS Films went silent and “7500” disappeared into a black hole for another two plus years.

Unless you are Kim Henkel, who could have waited 20 years to release “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” and then boasted the presence of two Academy Award winners in his cast, sitting on a finished movie for an extended period of time is a great way to limit your timeliness, as well as to douse audience interest.  Consider that at the time “7500” filmed, co-star Jerry Ferrara was fresh off eight successful seasons of “Entourage” on HBO.  Lead actor Ryan Kwanten was riding a wave of popularity for his role as Jason Stackhouse on “True Blood.”  What is the advantage in holding release until 2014, when the shows that made stars of the two male leads are both off the air and everyone else has moved on from remembering that “7500” even exists?

1996 was the only year that EA Sports did not release an annual entry in their Madden NFL video game series.  A humorous urban legend had it that what happened was the publisher hired a developer to make a “football” game and sent them away to do their thing.  When producers checked in some time later to take a look at the progress, they discovered that the developer had indeed made a “football” game, just not one that followed the American definition of the term.  With John Madden’s Soccer not being a viable release option, the game was scrapped while the forehead-slapping creative team learned an important lesson about proper project oversight.

Of course, nothing that absurd actually happened.  But it is an amusing anecdote nonetheless.  It earns a mention here because a reasonable theory could be postulated that a similar scenario explains why “7500” took its time finding a way to the public.*

*UPDATE: Lionsgate eventually released the film as "Flight 7500" on home video in 2016.

Someone behind the scenes probably noted the same thing as above.  S/he may have thought, “we have two currently trending male leads, not to mention Amy Smart and Leslie Bibb, and a reliable director in Takashi Shimizu, who is responsible for helming the very profitable The Grudge/Ju-on series.  This is the kind of movie that makes and sells itself!”  And so the producers presumed safety in stepping aside based on cast and crew pedigrees, content to wait for the final cut to start ringing up what was certain to be easy money.

Except when they saw what Shimizu and company delivered, enthusiastic trust turned into heart-dropping disappointment.  By then it was too late.  CBS Films realized they had something other than a surefire hit on their hands.  And they were stuck.

Someone must have slipped up by affording too much leash to proven talent.  Said talent then squandered the value of their reputations by coasting into a minimal effort production easily confused for a film by creators with one-tenth of the collective résumé.  There’s no other way to explain how a movie chock full of pretty faces, photographed by David Tattersall (cinematographer on the “Star Wars” prequels), scored by Tyler Bates (composer on several Rob Zombie and Zack Snyder films), and directed by one of J-horror’s most influential names, ends up so blandly unstylish and unremarkable.

A red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo turns into a supernatural nightmare for the passengers and crew when a mysterious man dies during a particularly violent bout of turbulence.  Soon after, haunting visions plague everyone onboard as a mystery unfolds regarding what is happening to their plane and how patient zero is connected.  Revealing the titles of any of the numerous movies employing the same hook that is this movie’s climax would be a spoiler.  Suffice it to say, you’ve witnessed this reveal before and you can see it coming here well before any of the characters do.

The backstories of a dozen people are crammed into a brief 75-minute runtime, and yet “Flight 7500” still moves at a crawl.  A flight attendant wonders if the pilot will leave his wife for her.  A silver-studded goth girl is perpetually fascinated with death.  A newlywed bridezilla can’t stop flaunting her ring or bothering strangers with her wedding photos.  The personalities are so stereotypical as to be cheek-reddening for screenwriter Craig Rosenberg.

A half-hour passes before “Flight 7500” gives the first real hint of where its plot is leading, other than some sort of impending doom for the flight, obviously.  Mostly fruitless exposition occupies the meanwhile in painfully forced ways.  One woman unzips her purse and stares at an unopened pregnancy test with a bit lower lip.  Who does that other than a character in a movie?  There are countless ways to establish a troubled pregnancy without relying on obvious staging.  Routine techniques like this bear the aroma of an “eh, you get the idea” attitude towards pat cinematic storytelling.

Editing is sloppy.  When a flight attendant is pulled into an overhead bin by an invisible force, the camera shows the start of a hair pull, cuts to the reaction of onlookers, then cuts back to a closing bin door.  The horror in what was unseen comes from the filmmakers thinking they can get away with not rigging an actual stunt or effect that would make the scene interesting.

Exterior shots of the aircraft in flight look like a hobby shop model being rocked by a kid playing make-believe.  Actors sell turbulence with a “Star Trek” level of physical acting, as though shows like “Lost” and films like “Alive” have not proven believable ways to stage exciting plane-in-distress scenes.  Smoke intended to be eerily paranormal is clearly from a fog machine puffing mere inches out of frame.

“Flight 7500” can be considered poorly produced by any standards.  Given the professional talent involved, the extreme luster lacking is all the more confounding.  There is no better word than “shocking” to describe the absence of technical execution.

Fans miffed at CBS Films for keeping the film in distribution limbo should direct their ire at the creators who made “Flight 7500” with such a limited standard for quality and originality.  Whoever initially pulled the film from the release slate made the right call.  Whoever put it back did not.

Review Score:  35