'Blood Red Sky' Review: Elevation and thrills rise together

Peter Thorwarth’s 'Blood Red Sky' unleashes a vampire on an overseas flight, but is she the villain?

A mother (vampire) fights for her son in 'Blood Red Sky.'
(Image: © Netflix)

What to Watch Verdict

'Blood Red Sky' is a transatlantic terror that blends action, excitement, and unexpected sweetness into what sounds like any Saturday night SYFY headliner.


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    ✈ Peri Baumeister is a killer vampire performer.

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    ✈ More than a silly title concept.

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    ✈ Impressively balanced.


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    ✈ A lengthy flight.

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    ✈ Not a midnighter (a warning).

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    ✈ Must give yourself to the insanity.

I will not start my Blood Red Sky review with a Snakes On A Plane callback. I will not start my Blood Red Sky review with a—I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHERF@%KING VAMPIRES ON THIS MOTHERF&$KING PLANE. Actually, I haven’t? Peter Thorwarth’s airborne actioner has more in common with Jaume Collet-Serra’s Non-Stop minus bloodsuckers and juicy splatter effects. That’s a positive connotation, to confirm. I enjoy Non-Stop as oddball blockbuster entertainment, and I appreciate Blood Red Sky in the same regard. It’s overlong and succumbs to Netflix’s apparent two-hour duration requirement, but Thorwarth otherwise controls a thrilling story of mile-high vigilantism with one marketable supernatural twist.

Peri Baumeister stars as Nadja, who we meet as a protective mother headed to America for an undisclosed life-saving procedure. She boards a flight with son Elias (Carl Anton Koch), both optimistic about curing whatever disease plagues Nadja. Unfortunately, a gang of hijackers led by Berg (Dominic Purcell) overtakes the plane to influence stock prices via tragedy. After Elias bolts for a hiding spot, defying Berg’s instructions to passengers, resident psycho henchman Eightball (Alexander Scheer) kills Nadja—or so he thinks. But, much to everyone’s surprise, Nadja reappears in her proper form as a vampire, now hellbent on revenge and safe travels.

What unfolds shouldn’t work, but that’s a testament to Thorwarth’s talent behind the camera. Blood Red Sky leans into the audacity of its vampiric concept with sternness and dramatic heft that might cause midnight movie fiends to scoff. Still, the struggle of Nadja and Elias’ survival withstands. It reminds of the bond between Martin Freeman and his infant daughter in Cargo, where horror influences (zombies in the latter’s case) threaten familial relationships that honor selflessness against forfeit. Baumeister is a phenomenal vampire mama in how she articulates the more beastly, feral traits of affection when a mother soothes her child’s nerves, stroking his hair but still with this rigid primal physicality. Carl Anton Koch might be even better as a son who doesn’t see his mother as a monster, capable of moving audiences with teary eyes or these cub-like embraces of a creature who’s nothing but his entire world. It’s achingly warm, tensely touching, and rather beautifully interwoven between in-flight meals.

A title like Blood Red Sky promises violence at high altitudes, which Thorwarth and co-writer Stefan Holtz do not forgo. I mention the nasty vampire design to emphasize how Thorwarth views vamps much like 30 Days Of Night. They aren’t sexy beasts—nor are their attacks without sloppiness akin to predators tearing apart their prey muscle-from-bone. There’s a brute meanness when fangs gnaw at neck flesh, accompanying squirts of sanguine liquids ejecting from bodies as a means of delivering on horror visuals like Pollock paintings. Again, Thorwarth never treats Blood Red Sky as camp or comedy. The benefits equate to a pulse-pounding intensity, whether that’s parental instincts gone rogue or the tangential terrorist subplot. Kudos to the makeup department for treating vampires with respect to their imposition—a transformation that loses Baumeister beyond sunken eyes, angular ear shapes, and makeup application that befits every slurp of gore.

It’s that unthinkable marriage between relentless stalk-and-bite action and wholesome family values that becomes the signature—nay, selling point—of Blood Red Sky. A character like Eightball, whose craven lust for criminality throws a wild card into the mix, keeps us guessing down to his reckless gunshots in a pressurized cabin. Nadja is, herself, a threat to passengers, but much like in Snakes On A Plane, the communal good bands together against armed intruders except for a rotten egg or two. There’s no doubt an alternate reality where Blood Red Sky plays more like Sky Sharks or Iron Sky, but Thorwarth excels by treating his narrative with the reverence it frankly deserves. Although, I will point out how running close to the two-hour mark is a hindrance that elongates an already on-edge concept. Mythos and the necessity for continued explanations become questionable with so many answers given.

All things considered? Blood Red Sky is a transatlantic terror that blends action, excitement, and unexpected sweetness into what sounds like any Saturday night SYFY headliner. Peri Baumeister is a phenomenal vampire mommy who shines just as brightly as Carl Anton Koch’s supportive adolescent hero, and we all know how easy it is for pint-sized costars to glide by without notice. Throw in Kais Setti as Farid—who fights to prove his innocence after Berg frames him as a religious extremist—and there’s more than meets the eye between berserker rage and post-9/11 commentary. Peter Thorwarth clears takeoff and steers a relatively smooth ride despite all the carnage, which could ensure Blood Red Sky is one of the sleeper horror discoveries you’ll find on streaming this year. Color me a crimson believer.

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.