is long past time to induct Ed Wood’s Plan
9 from Outer Space into the National Film Registry. Its cultural
significance is beyond question. No film is more responsible for the midnight
movie screening tradition or the “so-bad-its-good” aesthetic. Without it, Tim
Burton’s Oscar winning Ed Wood would
not exist. Wood’s cult classic now has another claim to lasting cultural
currency. It has spawned a remake. More of a reboot than a recreation, John
Johnson still pays plenty of homage to the Wood canon in Plan 9 (trailer
which releases today on VOD.
prologue starts self-referentially, with Cinema
Insomnia host Mister Lobo once again
assuming the Criswell persona, but openly questioning the wisdom of remaking Ed
Wood, because obviously. Oh but this Criswell will not get off as easily as the
original. Once the reanimated corpses attack, he will find himself holed up in
a country general store, along with Jeff Trent, the pilot who first reported
seeing a flying saucer.
is Halloween in the quiet town of Nilbog (Troll
2 reference alert), so Kelton the Cop is in no mood for UFO sighting
reports. He will soon learn better. The Tor Johnson-looking Inspector Clay is
one of the first to be killed by the re-animated hordes, but he will be back
soon. So will workaholic scientist Lucy Grimm’s fatally suicidal grandfather. At
least the whole Halloween thing explains why he was wearing a cape. Initially,
Grimm thought the mysterious energy pulse was a death ray, but eight hypotheses
later, she realizes it revives and controls the recently deceased.
are no flamboyant, sequin-wearing aliens explaining their nefarious schemes in
the more simply titled Plan 9. When
the invaders finally show themselves, they trying to blend in, rather than
stand out, but they only created two templates (one male, one female) for their
human forms. There are in fact a number of departures from the original
narrative (such as it was), but Johnson stays reasonably faithful to Wood’s
terms of tone, Johnson plays it perfectly. He never tries to slavishly duplicate
the kitsch of Wood’s film. There are no cardboard tombstones flopping around
here. Of course, Johnson keeps his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, but he
still goes about the reanimated zombie business with all due earnestness.
Arguably, Plan 9 is more closely akin
to Dan O’Bannon’s comedic pseudo-sequel The
Return of the Living Dead, which is very high praise indeed.
might sound like faint praise, but Charmed’s
Brian Krause is considerably better than his predecessor as Jeff Trent. Mister
Lobo is a hammy riot as Criswell, while Jerry Moore adds some gritty Fessendenish
flavor as the local DJ, Boss Man Mike. However, it is Johnson himself and Sara
Eshleman who really make the film, bickering and bantering together as Kelton
the Cop and the infinitely smarter Grimm.
In fact, elevating Kelton the Cop to the second
lead is a clever way to acknowledge the character’s significance for small but
strange cult fanbase. It is all just goofy and knowing enough to get away with
its periodic winks and hat-tips, but sufficiently down-to-business to keep the
audience invested. It is sort of shocking to say this, but Plan 9 is a clever, thoroughly entertaining film. Heck, it even
deserves a sequel. Affectionately recommended for cult movie fans, Plan 9 launches today (2/16) on VOD.
Labels: Ed Wood, Remakes, VOD