VOD: Inferno: Skyscraper Escape (2018) - Reviewed

Inferno: Skyscraper Escape, which is actually a 2017 French/Belgian TV movie Crystal Inferno retitled to confuse non-discriminating viewers hyped for the new Dwayne Johnson flick, arrives on DVD and on-demand platforms this summer. Inferno centers around an estranged couple (Claire Forlani and Jamie Bamber) meeting to discuss their divorce settlement with a lawyer that happens to be on the top floor of Antwerp, Belgium’s brand new high-tech high rise. When an explosion goes off a few floors down, the couple must work together to escape safely, not only with their lives, but their children as well. Inferno is directed by Eric Summer, a French TV director whose other most notable credit is co-directing last year's little-seen animated film Leap

Inferno certainly looks and feels like a TV movie. The acting is better than you might expect, but the bar is still pretty low. Which is a shame, because the acting is clearly the best part of the film. Most of the special effects amount to digital flames lazily shopped into stock footage of the titular skyscraper. In the wider shots you can even see traffic moving along normally in the streets, just a few feet from where the tallest building in Antwerp is on fire. As laughable as that may be, it's hardly the worst thing in the movie.

That dubious honor goes to the script. Everything about the writing of the film is such a disaster it's hard to know where to begin. The film's cold open introduces a seemingly nefarious villain (who we rarely see again in the film) and whatever exactly his motive is, which seems to have been designed to drive the action of the film but instead only adds to the flimsy piles of nonsense that Inferno is proudly built upon. Besides our heroes, no one else in the building seems to have an ounce of common sense, much less have taken a basic fire safety course or even read a sign. It feels like the part of every safety video you've ever been forced to watch at work that shows you what not to do in case of a fire. Questionable motives, hilariously bad science, and acting class-level performances of cringe-worthy dialogue are the touchstones of a lousy disaster movie, and Inferno checks every one of the boxes.

You've seen Inferno before. Or at very least you've seen a lot of movies like it.  Fans of goofy, trashy Syfy channel disaster epics will at least be able to wring a few unintentional laughs from the film. Everyone else will just get a limp, poorly written, borderline embarrassing mess. Inferno knows that it isn't The Towering Inferno or Die Hard, and it never tries to be anything more than what it is.  But even as "so bad it's good" movies go, it's certainly on a lower tier than the classics. There's not enough good, or bad, in Inferno: Skyscraper Escape to be truly entertaining or really anything more than just there.  Whether you're looking for a fun disaster movie or an MST3K-worthy turkey, there are plenty of better options elsewhere.  

--Mike Stec