If it weren’t for his inept storytelling, Ed Wood would have been the original king of the zombie genre, beating Romero by nearly a decade with his 1959 film Plan 9 from Outer Space. Instead, the film is infamous for being a total mess. But I must confess, it’s my favorite of his movies. In fact, it’s the only one I actually like. While the plot is a headache, at this point in time, it just has that old school black & white fright flick feel, including ghouls in a foggy graveyard, a freaky bald zombie dude, camptastically creepy Vampira, Bela Lugosi pretty much reprising his Dracula role, and 50s sci-fi spaceships on strings.
In other words, I couldn’t wait to see this remake. Plan 9 does something I really didn’t expect. It not only avoids being a spoof of the original, but it actually irons out the absurdity of the story and delivers a pretty straightforward zombie film, which is what the original should have done. Gone are all the ridiculous spaceship scenes concerning the aliens responsible for creating the zombies. This film keeps its feet firmly planted on the ground—until an undead hand reaches out of the dirt to grab its ankles!
However, it doesn’t forget to pay homage to its source material. For starters, it opens with a very Ed Wood (the movie) scene in which one of the actors, Mister Lobo (that’s really the actor’s name) argues with the director that it’s a really bad idea to do this remake. Mister Lobo rules. He’s the perfect midnight movie actor, and gets many of the funniest lines in Plan 9.
Next, a meteor crashes to earth on Halloween and the dead start crawling from their graves in a local cemetery. I always love me a cemetery rising scene, and dang it if there aren’t a few good jump scares to boot. Plus, we get nods to the bald ghoul, Vampira, and Bela Lugosi’s vampire ghoul from the original movie. Yes!
Initially, there are two sets of survivors, half of them trapped in a science lab, the other half—including our favorite adorable Whitelighter, Leo—in a convenience store, plus plenty of gut-munching, zombie attacks, and in-jokes about horror movies. The soundtrack perfectly sets the tone; the great score gives off some major 80s Euro horror vibe. Plus, loads of classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks capture that nostalgic 50s feel, including covers of oldies by Jonathan Tiersten—as in, cousin Ricky from Sleepaway Camp. Awesome.
And of course, I would be remiss in my duties as a horror perv if I didn’t make a big deal about the zomdong. Although, I’d say it makes its own big deal….
Eventually, the alien subplot gets neatly melded into the zombie outbreak, and the military steps in. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I detest when movies call in the army at the last second. Thing is, most movies don’t do it right. See, there’s a mega military hunk in Plan 9 who is compelled to rip off his clothes and join the other team. No, not that team. I wish.
Anyway, he’s not just there to take off his shirt and look pretty. He has a shining moment in which he loses his cool—while standing in a “vat of glistening goo.” Sexy. This is how you do a military takeover of a horror film.
Things get icky, gory, and more comic as the military and our original heroes team up to take on the threat, and the film leaves things open for a sequel.
The closing credits feature the track “Grave Robbers from Outer Space” (the original title of Plan 9 from Outer Space) by the Bo Movie Monsters, a perfect Halloween playlist tune.
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