Red Eye Review

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Aviophobic Lisa (McAdams) is pleased to find herself seated next to handsome stranger Jackson (Murphy) on a flight to Miami. Little does she know this is no chance encounter, and Jackson has sinister motives, involving the highest levels of government, in hooking up with the pretty hotel manager...


For his 20th feature, horror legend Wes Craven took a conscious decision to leave behind the genre which has served him so well over 30 years in favour of close relative the psychological thriller, in this case transferring the tribulation and terror from suburban, picket-fenced Middle America to the edgy context of the passenger jet. It’s a neat little concept, as hotel manageress Lisa Reisert (Mean Girls' McAdams) — not a fan of flying as it is — takes the red-eye home to Miami, only to discover that crashing is the least of her worries when she finds herself effectively taken hostage by fellow passenger Jackson (Murphy), on a murderous mission of which she now finds herself an unwilling part.Tapping into and then exaggerating anxieties many of us share, Craven handles the first hour with aplomb (but no bomb), slowly building the set-up while having fun with the clichés (a young blonde child is seen boarding her first flight alone), before switching gear abruptly when Jackson proves in an instant to be far from the charming would-be suitor Lisa was hoping would distract her from the flight. As they near Miami and Lisa’s deathly dilemma becomes more desperate, Craven keeps the energy high, introducing vicious new twists at a breathless pace while increasing the claustrophobia with almost constant close-ups of the central pair (screenwriter Ellsworth cites Phone Booth as an influence). McAdams makes an engaging and admirably resourceful heroine, while a typically impressive Murphy proves he doesn’t need a sack-cloth shroud and fear serum to scare — his ice-blue eyes, cold calm and sunken cheekbones making him an alluring yet deeply unnerving villain.Still, you can take the boy out of Elm Street, but as the last 20 minutes prove, it would seem you can’t entirely take Elm Street out of the boy. As the plane lands and the action transfers to Lisa’s family home, Craven returns to the standard tropes of the genre he shaped, with little of the postmodern irony of Scream — after a (presumably unintentionally) comic injury, Murphy’s Jackson even finds himself rasping, stumbling and demonically glaring like the best horror-movie monster. Although disappointing after the superior thriller of the first 70 minutes, the audience is by now having so much fun, and Craven knows this stuff so well, happily this makes for a far from fatal flaw.

Not the most sophisticated psychological thriller, yet slick fun deftly handled by Craven and his leads.