I really have to wonder about some filmmakers. Seriously, John Johnson, was there really a clamoring need to remake Ed Wood’s, uh, classic? I remember seeing a teaser trailer for this years ago, with a quick shot of a fast zombie racing up to a parked car and smashing its head into the window to get at the occupant, and I still wasn’t convinced. Then I read that it had taken Johnson ten years to put this together. I gotta tell ya, Johnson, you should have taken just a little bit longer, just long enough to tighten up the script, put a bit more money into the special effects – and then throw away everything and start over with something else.
There really was no need to make this. And how would you do it? Would you want to make a straight, serious version, as the teaser trailer seemed to have implied it was going to be? Would you try and capture the shitty, cheesy flavour of the original, put in deliberately bad effects and bad acting and awful productions? Would you go Meta and acknowledge that you were remaking a classic bad movie?
Well, John Johnson goes for all three strategies. And like me when I’m trying to write a review, play with the dog and listen to the wife, all three are going to be tripping over each other.
The movie opens with an actor (Mister Lobo) recreating Criswell’s famous introduction from the original movie, before stopping and arguing with the director over the nature of the production. Now, I don’t know if this is meant to be a meta-reference or if he is genuinely supposed to be an actor in a diegetic sense of the movie environment. I don’t think they know either.
We get a pilot and co-pilot witnessing a meteor sailing through the atmosphere to strike down near the small town of Nilbog (which is backwards for ‘Goblin’, the sort of wordplay that would have given JK Rowling a wide-on if she’d thought of it, and is a reference to a town with an identical name in another bad movie, TROLL 2). Their passenger pisses her pants from the turbulence, and the pilots make fun of her. Classy. The pilot has a wife who wants him to quit his job because he’s away for so long, and spends his time making fun of passengers who piss their pants.
There’s also a morgue attendant who goes back to work on the afternoon of her grandmother’s funeral (it’s Halloween, after all, a busy time); her grandfather who goes home, puts on a Dracula cape in order to make another reference to Lugosi in the original movie, and then hangs himself; a lady scientist working on a secret project; a disc jocket we cut back to every so often playing a medley of old songs the filmmakers could afford; and a store owner and assorted townspeople. No character names, because I couldn’t be bothered, I quickly found myself just going through the motions with this movie. It was like high school all over again, but with fewer opportunities for a circle jerk in the locker rooms.
Any way, the meteor lands in an abandoned school, and a pulse goes out from it, washing over the town. And things start rising from the graves. The story then gets split between the morgue, the lab and the local convenience store, as we learn (well, the lady scientist conveniently deduces) that aliens are responsible, that the pulse they sent out was designed to resurrect the dead, and that another pulse is due, this time to go out on a global scale.
Without the PLAN 9, ah, ‘pedigree’ attached, this would have been just a generic zombie movie, like a thousand others you will have seen. You’ll be playing Horror Movie Trope Bingo, guessing everything that happens, including the jerk who locks the hero outside to save everyone else, the arguments over whether they should stay where they are or risk going outside, the Total Idiotic Move (in this case, a kid who attacks a swarm of zombies with a fork lift. You know, the slow moving vehicles with the open, unprotected cabs).
And if Johnson had stuck to playing it straight, it might almost have been watchable. There are some decent make-up efforts on hand, some gore (including a nice scene of a zombie reaching into the open leg wound of a victim, ripping out a bone shard and stabbing its victim in the heart), and some grave (no pun intended) moments, like the besieged mother who kills her own child to spare the kid the horrors that await them outside (actually, there are more than a couple of scenes of kids being killed).
But the schizophrenic shifts from drama to schlock humour are as jarring as watching your grandparents twerk. One moment we see the aforementioned mother killing her child, before stripping off and stepping outside to be eaten, the next we get mugging and meta-continuity from Mister Lobo as Crisswell, the next we see the Army gunning down innocent people fleeing the zombies.
And for someone who tagged their movie as “the film Ed Wood wished he had made”, though he may have gotten some gore and nudity in there that Ed Wood couldn’t, his plot and characters are no more coherent than in Ed Wood’s original, with a final-act appearance from the actual aliens responsible, some military guys, and an interminably long epilogue setting up a sequel I hope never materialises. Ed Wood’s original was more entertaining in the end.
PLAN 9 is available on various VOD formats and the trailer is below.
Director: John Johnson (also director and actor. A three time loser)
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. Future events will happen to him in the future!