Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Plane Dead

2007, Dir. Scott Thomas

Okay, here’s the plot: shady scientist-type experimenting with a virus that can resurrect dead tissue smuggles the infected wife of one of his colleagues onto a fully-booked passenger jet, narrowly evading The Authorities who have gotten wind of his unethical scheme. That done, the scientist-type relaxes, because of course – in the best of horror-movie traditions - nothing can possibly go wrong…

Here’s the thing: I do take my zombies fairly seriously, but I don’t take them too seriously, if you know what I mean. Let’s face it, zombie flicks – by their very nature – don’t often stand up to serious scrutiny. The concept of dead folk running around (okay, okay – shambling around) eating the living doesn’t make a lick of sense, and the very best zombie flicks really only get away with the vast hole in logic either by approaching their monsters from a metaphorical/satirical angle (as in Romero’s films), or by showcasing a level of production and scriptwriting that so captures the viewer that suspension of disbelief is achieved (as in Shaun of the Dead).

In other words, good story, good script, good characters, and a bit of realistic gore doesn’t go astray.

Two out of four is not a particularly good result. The story is promising, in a cheesy kind of way, and the production values aren’t bad either. But the script is, quite frankly, dreadful. And the characters -

Oh, the characters!

Here’s a tip to aspiring horror film makers: if you want to engage the interest of the viewer, if you want to genuinely scare them, you must, must, MUST introduce characters that the audience can actually relate to. You know – ordinary folks, with the range of dreams and aspirations we all share. Further, there should be at least a couple of characters that the audience will actually like – otherwise, who gives a damn whether they get eaten or not? And there goes your suspenseful mood…

Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t relate to a single one of the characters (read ‘zombie fodder’) on that plane. From the sports star heading for marital breakup, to the two vacuous partner-swapping couples, to the hero and heroine of the piece (their roles made obvious by the fact they are notably less repellant than their fellow passengers, and share an unspoken attraction), not one skerrick of anything other than 2D clichéd personality or motivation was offered to make these folks seem even vaguely real.

Result? Not a great film. Visually, pretty damn entertaining, though – the scene where the nun gets her legs chewed off was a gem, and possibly tells you more about my tastes than you’d prefer to know. In short, I’d recommend it to anyone, as long as they watch it with the Mute control on.

(Originally posted on HorrorScope, 2008)

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