Plan 9 (2015)


USA. 2015.


Director/Screenplay/Producer – John Johnson, Based on the Film Plan 9 from Outer Space by Edward D. Wood, Jr, Photography – B. Sweeny, Music – Andy Deane, Visual Effects – Bergen Brown & Jeff Hafer, Special Effects Supervisor – Mariah Johnson, Makeup Effects – Bio Duck FX, Production Design – Sallah Baloch. Production Company – Darkstone Entertainment


Brian Krause (Jeff Trent), Mister Lobo (Criswell), John Johnson (Officer Kelton), Sara Eshleman (Lucy Grimm), Amy Hart (Paula Trent), Jerry Moore (Boss Man Mike), Chris J. Duncan (Danny), Matthew Ewald (Jimmy), Kerry James Klapperich (Larry), Jarod Kearney (Eros), Underground Ike (Chief Simpson), Conrad Brooks (Jamie), Matt Sloan (Sammy), Cooper Shaw (Justin), Aaron Yonda (Toby), John Patrick Barry (Stark), Hal Handerson (Grandpa), Doug Bari (Professor Robertson), Justin Martucci (Director), Lana Young (Edith), Addy Miller (Sarah), Monique Dupree (Becky), Bruce Whited (Lieutenant Harper), John R. Pierce II (Inspector Clay), Camille Keaton (Grandma), Megan Harper (Rachel), Bruno Munkus (Gravedigger), Tori Lee Teller (Emily), Eleanor Drew (Alice), T. Eric Hart (Colonel Edwards)


In the small town of Nilbog, lab assistant Lucy Grimm predicts that a pulse is coming from space and will cause mass heart attacks. While returning home, pilot Jeff Trent sees a meteorite come down but the local police are lackadaisical about investigating. Instead of creating heart attacks, the meteorite causes the dead to return to life everywhere. Jeff and several others are forced to barricade themselves in against the zombies at the convenience store, while Jeff’s wife is caught up along with a group of deputies as they fight a rearguard action. The military arrive and cordon the town off. Lucy is certain that this is Plan 9, an invasion plan conceived by aliens.

John Johnson is a prolific director of low-budget genre films who is based in Virginia. So far Johnson has directed the likes of Shadowhunters (2004), Deceptors (2005), Darken (2006), Skeleton Key (2006), Alucard (2008) and Freshman Psych (2009), as well as produced a number of other works and even tv series. Johnson can also be seen in front of the camera in Plan 9 playing the role of the bespectacled cop.

Here Johnson has set out to conduct a remake of Edward D. Wood Jr’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), the supposed worst film ever made. I must admit that this was an idea that both intrigued me and left me puzzled. The idea has such a bizarreness to it that the mind boggles how completely insane Plan 9 will end up being before sitting down to watch it. Johnson has stated that he conceived Plan 9 as the film Edward D. Wood Jr “would have wanted to make if he had had the resources.” This sets up an even more bizarre idea – namely that what Johnson is offering is us a straight version of Plan 9 from Outer Space made with better effects, a coherent script and, it is implied, more directorial skill.

This sounds an intriguing idea in promise but the delivery is somewhat less than that. What one expected was a version of Plan 9 from Outer Space made in colour and replicating many of the plot elements. That we do get somewhat – an opening with a Criswell stand-in (horror host Mister Lobo who looks nothing like Criswell) and characters familiar to the original such as Patrolman Kelton, pilot Jeff Trent and Inspector Clay. The dead are raised, there are even nods to the famous shot with a saucer on an obvious wire floating over a town and Wood regular Conrad Brooks makes a cameo appearance. (Elsewhere, the town is named Nilbog, which is a reference to Troll 2 (1990), another contender for Worst Film Ever Made). Perhaps the most variant changes are that the Grandpa raised from the grave looks nothing like Bela Lugosi (or his stand-in Tom Mason) and Camille Keaton as his undead wife looks nothing like Vampira. What we have is a film that occasionally nods in the general direction of Plan 9 from Outer Space but mostly does its own thing. Nor is Plan 9 even a parody, a deliberately bad film or spoofing the shortcomings of Wood and his crew; it has been made entirely as a straight film. This leaves you scratching your head.

On the other hand, is Plan 9 really the film that Edward D. Wood Jr would have wanted to make? Claiming such is a great piece of PR but nowhere near the truth. What John Johnson has essentially set out to do is turn the basics of Plan 9 from Outer Space into a modern zombie film. Alas, the modern zombie film – which is based around stumbling dead and copious splatter effects as humans stand at siege – did not come into existence until a decade after Plan 9 from Outer Space with Night of the Living Dead (1968), making it difficult to claim that this is the film that Wood would have wanted to make. Similarly, the splatter film did not begin until four years after Plan 9 from Outer Space came out with Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast (1963) and Wood demonstrated zero interest in making that sort of film. What Wood was making was a film that tapped the 1950s fad for alien invader films, although here the alien invader aspect is pushed to the side and only turns up at the end. The other thing that Wood wanted to do was make a vampire film featuring Bela Lugosi – indeed, Plan 9 from Outer Space started shooting under the title The Vampire’s Tomb and Lugosi and Vampira’s appearances are clearly intended to play into this – but there is nothing that resembles a vampire film here at all. In other words, John Johnson has done little to study what Wood’s real intentions were and has just made a modern film with occasional nods towards Plan 9 from Outer Space. Even as the zombie film he has seemed to want to make all along, Plan 9 is tame and unremarkable.

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