Every Day Is Halloween: TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL

Because these things matter, the rules:

The (un)Holy Trinity:

  • Primary or tertiary characters must be identified as “a Goth” either through direct reference or indirect allusion;
  • This identification must be the central position of the character’s identity (i.e. a character cannot just be depressed, or just listening to dark music, or just clad in black; the character must be defined by the fact that they view/are viewed as a Goth);
  • This identity must influence interactions of both an interpersonal and intrapersonal nature in the narrative to the extent that these interactions inform how we understand how this character is representative of the subculture as a whole.

turbulence2

You either go down like Peter Steele or you live long enough to see yourself become a member of Coal Chamber.

That’s the best description I can offer for something like Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal. Ostensibly the second unnecessary sequel in a series of unnecessary airplane disaster flicks — I can’t in good faith call any of these “things” movies, and outright resent the implication that they might qualify as films — Turbulence 3 has almost no relation to its previous two counterparts, and absolutely no relationship with anything existing in reality. And much like Coal Chamber, it’s the product of an era of bloat, a time when fashion and music and film swung so far into self-serious excess that it’s hard not to look back on all of it as some sort of elaborate prank.

You might also say Turbulence 3 is a trainwreck (or airline disaster, depending on your preference of metaphor). It involves a Marilyn Manson-esque shock musician who charters a flight in coordination with a web TV company to stream his final concert online (in 2001!). Somewhere along the way terrorists take over the flight and Turbulence 3 morphs into another variation of the Diehard-on-a-something flick as the shock rocker must save both his fans and the plane from certain doom. Concurrent to this happening, there are subplots about an FBI agent pursuing a hacker who is “hacking into the mainframe” of the web TV company for unspecified reasons, an ambitious young reporter who works for the web TV company trying to catch her big break, and a pair of idiots who work for the web TV company monitoring the live feed. Does any of that make sense? No. Don’t worry. Little about Turbulence 3 does.

turbulence3

Turbulence 3 doesn’t just miss its mark, it completes overshoots it and lands somewhere north of insane. Helmed by a middle-aged journeymen director in Jorge Montesi, a veteran of television shows like Friday the 13: The Series and TV movies like Omen IV: The Awakening, this is a project so far detached from whatever cultural zeitgeist was happening at the time that it feels like a strange patchwork of market-tested ideas of “goth.” At various points our “hero” Slade Craven is identified as a “death rocker,” and his music as “death metal”; the only common thread between these things individually is the word death. Turbulence 3 displays a clear lack of interest in identifying whatever these distinct labels might actually mean to their individual groups, cobbling together conflicting subcultures into one overarching concept of death music. That isn’t to say there can’t be overlap between these groups, but rather, Turbulence 3 has no idea what either of those things actually mean on their own and has no interest in even making an attempt at finding what middleground might exist between them. Because of that, Craven and his audience are an amalgam of all the worst late ‘90s goth stereotypes, and in fact, more closely resemble an early aughts nu-metal band, with middle-aged Southerners in Blade Runner facepaint, black boas, and cowboy hats, than anything that was happening at the time.

What’s even more insane, or probably hilarious, is the big plot twist which reveals the motivation of the terrorists: SATANISM! In a thing about a death-obsessed musician performing for an equally death-obsessed audience, the villains are Satanists intent on setting about the Apocalypse because of “religious hypocrisy.” So, we have a group of people virulently opposed to the Church, and then we have our terrorists; why these two groups would be opposed to each other is never spelled out. That the Satanists’ master plan is to crash the plane full of goths into a church, however, is commendable, and deserves serious consideration when discussing “Best Ways to Start an Apocalypse.” It’s a statement. How that statement makes a point about religious hypocrisy, I’m unclear, but it’s loud and angry and kvlt-as-fvck. I’m sure the Dark Lord would approve.

turbulence4

Sadly, I can’t abide. Turbulence 3 is a thing that happens for 100 minutes, and I’m not entirely sure why. Throughout the course of its run time, it makes a series of inexplicable choices. It brings back the star of Turbulence 2, Craig Sheffer, but casts him in a minor role, as a completely different character. It pits goths against Satanists. And most egregiously it asks that we believe Slade Craven’s “Razor Electric,” a song that sounds like a God Lives Underwater B-side, is such a transcendent pop hit that it could net 10 million viewers to stream a concert on a dial-up connection. By the time Rutger Hauer shows up to shoot himself in the face, I was downright envious. He got out easy. I had to endure another twenty minutes!

What I’m really saying is, Turbulence 3 is not just bad. It’s aggressively bad. Raiders of the Living Dead bad. There is nothing of import to be gleaned from it as a “film,” as a novelty, or as a cultural artifact representative of its era. It’s a blight on humanity. It should be considered an act of hostility against all who come into contact with it. Don’t just avoid Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal. If you find yourself in its company, take all necessary actions required to destroy it.

Rob Skvarla

Rob Skvarla

Robert Skvarla is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. His focuses include conspiracy culture, fringe communities, and new religious movements. He has written for Diabolique Magazine, Atlas Obscura, and Philadelphia City Paper, and served as a programmer for the Cinedelphia Film Festival.
Rob Skvarla
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