— by TOM ELCE —
Shot before “Twilight” made Robert Pattinson an official pin-up for teenage girls, “The Haunted Airman” finds the man playing the titular airman, confined to a wheelchair and an eerie Wales hospital due to injuries incurred while serving the RAF.
Being released onto DVD in the States, the short movie (it clocks in at a brief 70 minutes) might get some bonus buys from teen-vamp fans, but its tone, atmosphere and scare tactics seem more likely to appeal to the old lady inside of you.
Shadowy figures and (non-existant?) spiders haunt the navy blue nights of Pattinson’s Toby Jugg at the hospital, writer-director Chris Durlacher suggesting that his delusions and hallucinations are either the result of an elaborate mindgame courtesy of one Dr. Hal Burns (Julian Sands) or Toby’s prior involvement in the World War II battlefield.
Whatever the outcome, “The Haunted Airman” is simply too heavy-handed to buy into anything it has to say or do. The psychology impact the war (now in its latter stages) has had on Toby is clumsily conveyed by flashes of fire in the frame as Toby sits and looks contemplative. The world-weariness afforded him by his being confined to a wheelchair is about as clumsy as can be, actually getting eye-rolls in a scene that sees him wheel himself up to the locked hospital gates, light up a cigarette and look towards the sky.
Lacking sublety or an actual spook factor in its writing, “The Haunted Airman” isn’t so great to look at either, which only hammers home its mediocrity. Director Durlacher along with cinematographer Jeff Baynes show no visual flair, simply pointing and shooting their subjects, occasionally shaking the camera about when the setup calls for a feeling of claustrophobia but mostly just running on auto-pilot.
Worst of all, the nightmare sequences aren’t, well, nightmarish. They’re just the same shopworn tactics repeated over – shadowy figures passing just by the characters’ eyesight, spiders running across walls, birds and human characters popping up out of nowhere – with little to no effect. With it’s isolated setting and occult subtexts, “The Haunted Airman” should aim to be as effective as “The Shining” yet every element seems to have been toned-down so as not to offend the TV audience the film was originally made for. In terms of mood, its more in-keeping with “Murder, She Wrote.”
Lead attraction Pattinson basically alternates between squinty-eyed when interacting with his fellow cast members (of whom only Julian Sands makes an impression) and looking stoned when trying to act scared. In other words: he’s about as mediocre and unchallenging as everything else in this disposable film, of which the only memorable standout is a love scene in which Toby sprouts literal horns.
“The Haunted Airman” is out on DVD in the U.S. on Oct. 13.
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