Do you find elevators and elevator shafts fascinating? How much do you enjoy annoying kids yelling at each other? Have you seen Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno? Your answers to those questions will greatly impact your enjoyment of the disaster movie Crystal Inferno.
Unscrupulous building developer Lucas Beaumont (Nigel Barber) cuts corners in the manufacturing of what would be one of the highest buildings in Paris, his evil henchman Eric Steele (Atanas Srebrev) kills a building inspector, who had threatened to report a bribe that was offered to her by Steele, and a little while later a company that was going to buy this newly constructed monolith hire structural engineer Brianna Bronson (Claire Forlani) to give the building a good once over, but Beaumont can’t have this so he orchestrates a scam that implicates Brianna in an extramarital affair which forces her to leave the city to try and patch things up with her angry husband Tom Bronson (Jamie Bamber). If this sounds overly complicated for a movie about a building on fire you’d be right, but these machinations do result in the building never being inspected and that sets the stage for our disaster du jour. That the filmmakers apparently thought all this set-up would lead to a good movie is the real mystery here.
“Everyone, if you could please throw your copy of the script into the shredder we can start filming.”
If we let slide that the under-code manufacturing of the building is a complete lift from the 70s disaster epic The Towering Inferno we are still left with the remaining plot not making a lick of sense. The first building inspector is murdered and buried in the building’s foundation but for some never explained reason a replacement was never sent to follow up on her findings, and then months later after being framed for infidelity by our villains, Brianna flees Paris and yet the company that hired her to check out the building didn’t bother to get a replacement for her either. Are building inspectors and structural engineers so rare in France that if one disappears or walks off the job you’re basically fucked and have to hope the building doesn’t fall down?
What’s truly unfortunate is that this moronic and overly complicated set-up isn’t even the worst part of the movie as that would be our two leads and their idiot kids. One of the most popular disaster film tropes is the divorced/estranged couple being brought together by whatever disaster they must confront – earthquake, fire, volcanoes, and twisters have saved more marriages than a dozen marriage counsellors – but in the case of Crystal Inferno we don’t want them to get back together, in fact, we’d be cool if both of them and their kids died horribly in the ensuing flames, that’s how annoying they all are. The script tries to imply that Brianna is a strong modern woman, who believes that even though she gave up her dreams to marry Tom she can still have a career and a family, but when her marriage is threatened by fake photos of her kissing a man on the streets of Paris all we get from her is a bunch of blubbering as she begs her husband to take her back, and he is a complete asshole about everything.
But just how big of a dick is Tom? Well during this divorce settlement meeting, he states, “She was selfish, unavailable, she was focused on her career rather than her family…and then the affair.” Are we supposed to be sympathizing with this jerk? In tears, she fires back, “I did not have an affair! I have made so many sacrifices to prove to you that I love you. You, you are the one who is throwing this marriage away.” I’m not sure what is worse here; the asshole who apparently thinks his wife should be at home baking cookies or the woman who wants him back. Clearly, all these corporate shenanigans and marital strife are all about filling up screen time as a film with a straight-to-video budget couldn’t afford much in the way of actual disasters, and this is also why about sixty percent of the movie takes place in an elevator shaft with a couple of annoying kids constantly yelling at each other.
And just why are brother and sister Ben (Isaac Rouse) and Anne Bronson (Riley Jackson) inside this particular elevator shaft? Well, turns out that while their mom and dad were sitting down with their respective lawyers the two kids found the incriminating photos of their mom’s alleged affair on their dad’s computer and quickly discovered that they were faked, and this right after we heard Tom’s lawyer state that in six months time Brianna was unable to prove they weren’t real. So we are to believe these two kids were able to figure out in six minutes what their mother couldn’t accomplish in six months, and thus our stock in the Brianna character plummets even further, if that’s at all possible at this point. She may be some brilliant structural engineer but I myself wouldn’t step foot inside a building she inspected.
But what about the fire, isn’t this movie about a raging fire that our heroes must escape? Well, whatever budget this film had it’s obvious that not much of it went into the visual effects department; we see a couple of guys killed when the power grid overloads and explodes, a CGI air condition unit plunges from the top of the building to smash through the atrium below, and then we get repeated shots of the building’s exterior to show us the “raging” fire, and by repeated I mean the fire never seems to grow at all during the entire running time of the movie. Despite numerous explosions and stairwells filling with smoke whenever the film cuts to an exterior shot it doesn’t look like the fire has spread one inch.
When any film is on a limited budget it can make things tough to properly execute your particular scenario but when it’s a disaster film, that can be well…disastrous. The only way to survive such a handicap is by having a tight script, excellent characters and a good cast, which this movie has none of. Aside from the two leads most of the cast are non-speaking actors that are badly dubbed and even the two idiot kids in this thing have different accents from each other. The boy’s English accent keeps slipping out while the girl’s Californian accent is a terrible counterpoint, and with both Jaimie Bamber and Claire Forlani being from London, England we are left wondering why they cast one American actor to play the daughter with everyone else trying to fake American accents? Wouldn’t it have been just as easy to state that this family was from the United Kingdom? I don’t think even the most jingoistic viewer would have faulted this movie if the “heroes” were not American.
The film certainly does not portray these people in any kind of flattering light as the dialogue they are given is simply atrocious and repetitive. In fact, the entire script can be summed up as follows…
Idiot Parent: “Honey, you have to try!”
Idiot Kid: “I can’t, I just can’t”
Idiot Firefighter: “You can’t do that, it’s impossible!”
Idiot Parent: “Those are my children, I have to try.”
Repeat those two exchanges for about ninety minutes and you’ve got the Crystal Inferno in a nutshell.
What is so depressing is that this movie is not even as good as your average piece of crap from the SyFy Channel and the rare fleeting moments of a decent effect shot are constantly overshadowed by the terrible acting and awful script. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of disaster films, good and bad alike, but this one is just too painful to even recommend to fans of the genre.
• We first meet the Bronson children as they toss a Frisbee back and forth, from about five feet away from each other.
• We first see Brianna doing some rock climbing at a gym; this is so we can buy her sliding down an elevator cable with only torn sleeves wrapped around her hands for protection.
• What exactly is Tom’s job that Brianna sacrificed her life for? We never find out.
• When the fire alarm goes off while they are in the law offices Tom asks, “Fire alarm, do we care?” What a tool.
• Brianna tries to convince them to stay put because she believes the building’s safety features are enough to keep them from harm. Isn’t that something the antagonist in a disaster film is supposed to say?
• Beaumont tries to escape by helicopter but an explosion causes it to smash into the building. Why the pilot took off from the top of the building to then fly down next to the fire will forever remain a mystery.
• When the air conditioning unit fell through the atrium it ruptured a gas line that the fire department was unable to shut off, but it takes most of the film’s running time for one spark of the “raging fire” to ignite the gas.
Crystal Inferno (2017)
This is a film that seems to exist solely to make the Sharknado movies look good by comparison, those films are dumb but they never bore you, and as disaster movies go there isn’t much to offer fans of the genre.