Directed by: Scott Thomas
Following on from Canadian Air Thriller ‘Altitude’ I’m sticking with films that take place on board a plane, whilst also returning to my favourite sub-genre in horror – The Zombie movie.
‘Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane’, the film’s bloated title, pretty much tells you what to expect; a long distance flight to Paris is carrying an assortment of characters and some top secret cargo. The co-pilot says “What are we carrying?” to which the pilot replies “I’m not sure I want to know”. Inevitably disaster ensues when the cargo breaks open and a deadly virus spreads.
The first half hour introduces us to the cast. We have tarty air hostesses aplenty, including one scream queen, a couple of bickering promiscuous and totally obnoxious twenty something couples, a fictionalized version of Tiger Woods with his nagging wife in tow, a lawyer and his dangerous client (a nod to any number of quite literally high flying 90’s action movies such as ‘Passenger 57’ and ‘Con Air’ perhaps?), a gun toting bad ass Federal Marshall who sports a fetching black beret and a few ethically unscrupulous scientists. It doesn’t take long to realize this film is ‘Snakes on a Plane’ minus the snakes.
When the plane enters storm clouds and endures a spell of turbulence the cargo begins to rattle and shake. A woman emerges from a crate, disorientated and dishevelled. The armed guard, clad in a bio-hazard suit, who has been watching over the cargo, spots the woman and shoots her. The woman has been infected with a deadly virus; she doesn’t stay dead for long, is reanimated in zombie form and violently disposes of the armed guard. Two scientists and the co-pilot go down to see what all the commotion was about. The scientists are clawed and bitten, but the co-pilot dramatically escapes from the attack. He raises the alarm, but it’s too late, the infected run riot and the passengers get chomped by blood thirsty zombies. A band of survivors battle back, and then face a race against time to regain control of the plane before a Fighter Jet takes decisive action with a heat seeking missile.
What’s good about this film is that when the infection spreads there is a wonderful sense of pandemonium. It’s quite gripping, and though there aren’t necessarily enough twists from this point onwards, there’s enough to keep you on the edge of your seat as zombies grab at passengers from holes in the floor, and through the flimsy bathroom walls. The zombies are frenzied and go for the throat; there is plenty of blood, enough to satisfy all you goremongers out there.
You pretty much have to suspend your disbelief for significant portions of the film. Our heroic survivors use pistols that fire a seemingly unlimited amount of ammunition, some of the people who get bit who don’t actually turn and the plane itself is able to take a hell of a lot of punishment. Then there’s the weak government sub-plot, which is pretty much tagged on. It seems a bit ridiculous why such precious cargo would be on a commercial flight, but hey, let’s not work our brains too hard thinking about this. It really doesn’t matter.
‘Flight of the Living Dead’ is a film which rather like the hand of a desperate zombie, frantically grabs for a cult following. I suppose what initially prevented this film from going viral is the lack of a #Sharknado Twitter boost in 2007, or even the kind of viral word of mouth hype which drove ‘Snakes on a Plane’. Having said that, it’s got a decent Rotten Tomatoes score, and plenty of people seem to like it. In my opinion this is a decent enough zombie film that nearly, almost, but not quite gets it right.
2ND REVIEW – by marklongden
I watched this thanks to the above review, and while my co-reviewer nailed it, pretty much, I thought “well, it’s either write a review or spend an entire day working”. I quite surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it (and I was scanning the credits to make sure it wasn’t a SyFy Channel or Asylum production).
I presume page 1 of quite a few “scriptwriting for beginners” books talk about spending a little time setting up your characters, but so many films get it wrong, by having people behave in a weird way just to get some important information across. This film pretty much nails it – there are a good 15 characters in this, and they’re all set up quickly and efficiently and you can tell everyone apart. Apart from the Nun, but she’s just a visual joke anyway. Okay, it doesn’t always work – world famous black golfer Leopard Forests (not his actual name in the film), despite telling his wife that this holiday is all about them, has brought a golf club on board as his extra personal item for no reason whatsoever.
As well as being a horror film, this also works as a fantasy – a fantasy that planes are roomy and comfortable, and are staffed by impossibly attractive models. The economy class on this flight was like first class on a normal plane, and first class was like an unimaginably luxurious private jet. Although, a normal plane interior wouldn’t have been very exciting to film in, because the zombies wouldn’t have room to move. Two jokes!
One of the fun things about zombie films is trying to figure out who’s going to die. We weigh things up based on the morals of the characters, how attractive they are, if they mention it being their last week before retirement, and so on. This film is refreshingly difficult to do that with (although there are some obvious ones). It degenerates very quickly into chaos, with zombies coming through mirrors and up through floors, and people you were convinced would at least be around for the final fight get bitten and are done with fairly quickly. The fact it’s surprisingly bonkers is a big plus point for it, I think.
It’s not perfect, for certain. There’s a scene where a small group of the living are crawling along a maintenance section for what seems like ten minutes, leaving the question to be asked: “How long is this damn plane?” The women in this film are window-dressing, each and every one, and there are a few logical questions that, post 9/11, take you out of things a little. How does a commercial airline allow a group of renegade scientists to get on an international flight? How many people in fridges carrying a zombie plague are being transported every day in cargo holds? And the tension is affected by we the viewers never really having any sense of where the plane is – the pilot refuses to just put the plane down for the longest time, so I assumed they were over the Atlantic, but it turns out the plane was going from LA and had only made it as far as somewhere near Canadian airspace before turning back. Seriously, pilot, land the plane in a damn field! Zombies are killing your passengers and crew!
What it is, though, is a surprisingly fun film that deserved a little of the “Snakes on a Plane” buzz. The cast are solid, featuring plenty of old hands at this sort of thing. Well, that and ludicrously attractive women, but admiring the rather wonderful Kristen Kerr (right before this film, she worked on “Inland Empire”, which must have been a weird transition for her) is difficult when you realise none of the women in this film have any agency, really. Even so, one worth adding to that shelf of films to pop on if you’re feeling ill and don’t want to concentrate too hard.