Friday, March 4, 2016

Plan 9

Plan 9

John Johnson

I try my damnedest to be open minded about remakes, I always fear I'm going to miss the next The Fly (1986), or The Blob (1988), or heck, even the next Invaders from Mars (1986) (Well, I liked it anyway). Those films are rare exceptions in an ocean of remakes that more recently only seem to exist to keep the rights to a franchise. Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) is one of the most recently spewed out example of this type of film. So, upon hearing that a production company was filming a remake of Ed Wood Jr.'s opus, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), and a serious remake at that, I was intrigued but also braced for disappointment.

Plan 9 stays very close to its progenitor's plot: Some aliens, feeling threatened by a newly developed super-weapon, invade Earth and reanimate the dead in hopes of spreading terror. A pilot finds himself caught up with the police and other locals as the fall prey to the zombies. The similarities stop there, as the Plan 9 introduces a large cast, including horror host Mister Lobo filling in as prognosticator, Criswell.

"No one loves jams and jellies as much as I do, pal!"
The zombies themselves are great, keeping the glassy eyed grey look of the original, these undead are fast and mean as hell. They do feel like a legitimate threat throughout the film. The aliens are far removed from the frustrated individuals of Wood's movie, and instead are kind of bland, vaguely threatening humanoid clones. Also, big negative points for no flying saucers. I know this is a modernized update but there's always room for flying saucers in a movie.

Plan 9 is a mostly serious remake, but there is plenty of comedy through out, most of it is wisely left to the human cast and their reactions to the situation. There are a couple of fun gross out gags, my favorite being a zombie woman dragging a baby behind her via its umbilical cord. There's a strange off note scene with a mother poisoning her daughter and stripping naked to allow herself to be killed by zombies. I guess it was supposed to be shocking, but the acting and editing just can't salvage it.

Me during allergy season.
There are a number of decent turns in the story and it never becomes self-referential enough to get bogged down in winking nudges to its esteemed predecessor. Plan 9 almost entirely stands on its own and that goes a long way to making it watchable. The charismatic Mr. Lobo steals the movie and the creators make a wise choice in letting him take front and center by the third act.

Plan 9 could have been a dull cash-in on its name alone, but there is a lot of love for the material both in front and behind the camera. Plan 9 is vastly more entertaining than I expected, and sadly its probably going to keep me checking in on remakes just to see if another hidden gem appears.

Damn you, Plan 9.

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