The Asylum are a law unto themselves. Their mockbusters usually fall into the so bad it’s good or so bad it’s bad category. Airplane vs Volcano is a relatively unique premise for them though as it was not directly pitted against a blockbuster to rip off. This, along with some tight editing and plenty of ham – makes it one of The Asylum’s best movies to date. If viewed as a tongue in cheek look at the genre, there’s plenty to enjoy.
The Disasters Faced
Volcanoes, lava bombs, pyroclastic clouds, madmen on board, ill-fated rescue missions and a kid that doesn’t seem to be able to cry properly.
On a quick 91 minute deadline (to fit inside a Sy-Fy 2 hour with commercials debut no doubt), the disaster is upon us straight away as the main characters are introduced. A ring of volcanoes explode into action and its impending storms and never-ending lava bombs kill the pilot and co-pilot onboard a flight crossing over the ring of fire. Before the pilot croaks he places the plane onto autopilot, making it fly around in a circle as a holding pattern until they can be saved. Problem is – that circle is precisely where they don’t want to be! Cue the various passengers on board to try flying the plane, argue with each other and meet terrible fates as failed rescue after failed rescue keep you guessing as the plane struggles to stay in the air. Don’t sweat the science – nor the CGI – just enjoy it at face value for its silliness and go for the bumpy ride.
Why Is It Worth Watching?
Airplane Vs Volcano wears its hammy roots with pride. This is a jovial nod to the melodrama of the Airplane series but with a modern-day look. For a low budget movie, it’s also effective with its use of continuous problems and dramas. The action splits between Dean Cain (in fine form grimacing as every rudder turn) pretending to fly the plane and the less exciting rescue attempts on the ground from the military. The fact the ground action takes place in the same old military base that The Asylum use in every movie, with a nigh on identical script to all their previous movies, is where the film doesn’t quite work. The captain is laughably idiotic with his stern way of stopping rescues and commanding respect only to then have a rousing speech in a U-Turn that makes zero sense. The acting and lines are wooden and awful apart from Robin Given’s, whose fake tears and shocked face as she cradles the phone to her chest are the stuff of spoof geniuses. It’s as if the ground sections are making up a complete comedy spoof as it feels like a different movie in tone and quality.
Up on the plane though, things are tighter, tauter and more fun because you only need one set and some competent actors to hold an aeroplane movie at mediocre or above and this lot can work it. There’s always something going wrong and the list of problems keeps things from settling down before it’s predictable conclusion. What struck me after watching the movie was that usually with Airplane films there’s just a singular issue – like for the first two Airport movies – and once it’s done, it’s just coasting home. Here, they’ve really gone to town with every issue ever and I appreciated that. I actually wished the film was a little longer to give some of the other characters some more airtime as it follows the disaster trope of having five or six main characters to follow in the disaster with a few constant backgrounders and that’s always something I welcome in a low budget film so that it’s not just the single-family unit where you know everyone will survive because its just the family.
It’s The Asylum. The effects are not great and when they are used, they are used sparingly. A few of the plane shots look fine and the volcanic eruption clouds look decent but they clearly haven’t worked out lava or fire yet and so resort to lots of distorted oranges on screen with a heat effect to take your eye off how it’s not layered into the frame properly.
Now, this is a delightful mixed bag as many of them are one dimensional! Tamara Goodwin plays the most inept flight attendant ever. She cries, she does the perfect OMG look at everything, she hugs and kisses people but she barely can do any first aid and seems utterly incapable of managing a crisis. It’s possibly the most damsel in distress woman I’ve seen in a disaster movie for some time. Elsewhere Dean Cain is given actual depth and pulls it off and I enjoyed Matt Mercer’s worried but on it tech-guy Landon and wanted more of Shirley too whose single scene where she talks is very cute and endearing. Carlos Crieger played by David Vega is utterly hilarious though. Clearly put on the plane to put a nod to a post 9/11 America, his sole job is to have a meltdown, with an accent and provide terrorist tendencies at the worst opportunities. Of course, he has an accent *rolls eyes*. To his credit, Vega pulls off crazy in such an over the top theatrical tone (think Tim Curry in the low budget 90’s Titanic) that its like you have a mini theatre play in the middle of the film. Still with me? It’s fun I promise!
“Your shores are the new Pompeii!” – Lisa Whitmore
Three Memorable Moments
- The fuel ejection by accident incident for its drama
- The decompression of the plane and stunt work that follows for its pay off
- The pyroclastic cloud that hits the beach. This film bravely goes for the kiddies!
The obligatory weird moment…
I have two. The first is a spoiler so if you don’t want to read it, jump down a paragraph. There’s a subplot between a policeman and a boy whose mother seems more interested in hitting on said policeman, twice her age, rather than looking after her plane sick son. However in the space of about three scenes policeman and son seem to have created an unbreakable bond in what must be an hour of real-time life before our policeman meets his end. Cue a really out of place death speech and handing over of the police badge. The kid says his only word during the entire film and cries a lot. The mother is nowhere to be seen. She’s sat in the chair opposite in the next isle not caring a jot. Your child is with a dying man and no one seems to want to help him – it’s just so weird!
The second weird moment is more a trivia fact rather than anything else but I love the idea. The Asylum also made a film called Apocalypse Pompeii and it takes place at exactly the same time as this film. During this film, we hear of events that take place in that film, whereas in Apocalypse Pompeii there’s a TV report about the people trapped on the flight in this film played. What a great crossover!
The Drinking Game
Each time the plane does something utterly unrealistic – like dodging incoming lava bombs and surviving all kinds of damage. This plane will be the last thing standing on planet Earth I promise you that! Its ability to do stunts is perhaps only outdone by the loop-the-loop from Airport 79 Concorde!
Despite its goofy misgivings, this has the same kind of fun fact as Sharknado. Airplane Vs Volcano is not as outrightly stupid but it definitely kept me entertained from beginning to end and I’ll be looking forward to watching it again to make sure I’ve caught all the stupid lines (calling volcanoes Bitches is a thing in this film) and hammy acting. Craptastic but with heart and conviction to carry it all off – this is one of the best low budget Asylum films.
Rating – 3/5 – Good
If you liked Airplane Vs Volcano you may like…
- Apocalypse Pompeii (for its crossover in world building and events)
- Airport (for the original hammy plane disaster)
- Airport 79 Concorde (for equally jumping over the shark with aplomb)
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