I was going to pass on Row 19 (Ryad 19) because fuck Russia, and because the horror films coming out of Russia for the last couple have years have been one of the few things that suck worse than their army’s performance on the battlefield. But then I saw that it wasn’t it from the same company that gave us the likes of The Ice Demon and Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest. Even better it was directed by Alexander Babaev who made a solid Evil Dead knockoff, Bornless Ones. So, feeling a little dirty, I sat down to watch it.
When she was seven, Katerina (Svetlana Ivanova, The Blackout, Cosmoball) was the sole survivor of a plane crash. Unsurprisingly she hasn’t flown since. But now she and her daughter Diana (Marta Kessler, Welcome to Mercy, Gogol. Viy) are taking a red-eye flight to see Katerina’s father. Did I mention that this is the twentieth anniversary of the crash? And that Diana is seven years old?
Apart from a poverty row recreation of the crash, we see what happens immediately before and then young Katerina walking through the forest, Row 19’s first half-hour feels more like the start of a weak entry in the Airport or Turbulence franchise than a horror film. The plane is sparsely occupied, but writer James Rabb makes sure they’re all stock characters. The elderly couple, a judgemental businessman, an artist who “sees things” and Alexey (Wolfgang Cerny, The Red Ghost, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) the handsome nice guy across the aisle from Katerina and Diana.
Once the flight takes to the sky however things get better with a creepy vision of bloody hands outside the plane’s windows accompanied by chanting that sounds like it was borrowed from The Omen. There are a lot of visions in Row 19 actually. Visions, flashbacks and even visions within flashbacks as the film tries to blur the line between what is and isn’t real.
To its credit Row 19 did manage to occasionally make me unsure of what was going on. Was what she was seeing real? A side effect of her anxiety or the medication she was taking for it, made worse by her abruptly stopping taking it?
Unfortunately, Row 19’s script keeps piling on details and incidents that point in either of two fairly obvious directions. By the time the flight attendants announce they’ve been detoured to the airport where the original crash happened you can there are only two ways it can end. Granted I guessed the wrong one, but that was because they went with the weaker of the two options.
The film’s dialogue is often clunky and unnatural sounding and very poorly dubbed. The physical copies offer a subtitled version as well and that would probably have been a major improvement over the version I saw which credits Samantha A. Morrison (Project Gemini) as the “English Voice Director”.
The result is a film that while it’s certainly better than the likes of Flight 666, really never rises to its full potential or even makes good use of the setting’s inherent claustrophobia. I was hoping for the gore and nastiness of Bornless Ones on a plane, instead, I got warmed-up leftovers from The Twilight Zone.
Row 19 is available on Blu-ray and DVD as well as VOD and Digital platforms. You can check Well Go USA’s website for more details. If that’s not quite what you were after, let FilmTagger suggest something similar.