Fear of dying

Rated 3.0

I’ve never been a big fan of horror maven Wes Craven’s oeuvre, aside from the deliriously dark comedy The Hills Have Eyes. I’ve always had the vibe that he felt the genre was beneath him, and with each successive picture my anti-Craven bile began to build until I was about to scream.

But with his latest offering Red Eye, consider me sitting down with a big ol’ 40-dawg of Eat Crow. An economical chiller in both budget and running time, Craven makes a comfortable transition from the supernatural and serial killers to the most terrifying element most folks can imagine—strapped in the passenger seat of a turbulent red eye flight with a seatmate with an invitation to hell. My version usually involves a sweaty fat woman with a squalling infant and acres of carry-on, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t trade that nightmare for plucky Rachel McAdams’ curse—new serpent-eyed deadly friend Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow from Batman Begins).

Seems ol’ Lisa (McAdams) is the manager for a high-class Miami hotel, and Jack (Murphy) needs her to relocate the accommodations for the soon-to-visit new head of Homeland Security so that his comrades have a better shot at his last room on the left. Do it, or an abiding stranger in the house whacks her father. And in a real shocker of a narrative move, Lisa is a refreshingly resourceful heroine (no almost de rigueur dumb chick fumblings here), and is a surprisingly adept opponent in the ensuing game of cat-'n'-mouse. Don’t look for this one as your next in-flight movie.

With Red Eye being added to a ràsumà that includes Mean Girls, The Notebook and this summer’s sleeper, Wedding Crashers, hopefully the likeable McAdams will get bumped to First Class in the Hollywood machine.

Tautly-scripted with a lean 85-minute running time, Red Eye is a welcome throwback to the days when a thriller could rely on snappy dialogue without resorting to gratuitous mayhem or car explosions every five minutes. Although the setup at first seems like another entry in the hoary old Airport series, once Red Eye takes off it is an edge-of-the-seat white-knuckler through the not-so-friendly skies.