Sunday, April 11, 2010

Movie Review: Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane (2007, U.S.)

The idea of flying scares the hell out of me. The thoughts of straddling across the stratosphere in a long, cylindrical tube at several hundred miles an hour makes me break out in a cold sweat. So what the hell do you do when the undead are onboard? That’s the premise of Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane. Released in 2007 and directed by Scott Thomas, the movie focuses on a flight to Paris and a group of scientists intent on creating a biological weapon from a modified malaria virus. Some critics blame Thomas for copying Snakes on a Plane, which was released at the same time. Luckily, proof was released that Thomas had been working on this film for quite some time before the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle came to life.

I’ve got to admit, for a gimmick movie, the movie is worth a watch. You basically take the premise of fighting a zombie outbreak, but instead of being in a barn, they’re on a plane. The miniature 747 that the filmmakers used was shot at the studio where George Lucas destroyed the Death Star in the blockbuster Star Wars. Some sets were cannibalized from a plane graveyard in Arizona and used for sets in Los Angeles. The directors used the same technique that several disaster films in the 70’s would use by setting up all of the characters involved in the first 15 minutes of the film (think Earthquake or Airplane). The director credits Forrest Ackerman’s “Famous Monsters” magazine as his gateway into making films since he was 13.

The movie is based on an urban legend of a Vietnamese mosquito that could bite a person and cause their body organs to shut down. The victim would then reanimate and attack the living. Now one part in the movie that might upset the zombie purists, such as myself, is that these are not Romero zombies. They’re Snyder zombies who are running, leaping and climbing monsters for the Gen Y set. They also have the neat little trick of regenerating damaged tissue, so they virtually indestructible, even with a head shot. I don’t hate the Snyder zombies, but I don’t think they’re very scary. What makes the Romero zombies isn’t that actual zombie itself, it’s that they never stop coming, and they always start forming huge numbers at an exponential rate as the outbreak continues and that creeps the “bejeebers” out of me. The zombie action on Flight of the Living Dead doesn’t happen until about 36 minutes in. There’s a slow buildup as the filmmakers take their time building up the action.

Nathan Wang is a huge fan of the zombie genre and composed all of the music for this film (he also did the sound for the Pixar classic Ratatouille). The sound and stings have a very classic, “Hitchcockian” sound to them and added nicely to the suspense of the film. The filmmakers try to include some scenes of physical comedy amid the violence of the film for brevity and as a nod to Shaun of the Dead. The editing in this film is very clean, tight and well paced. Some of the zombie attacks are very stylized as a nod to Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead.The make up effects were pretty top notch by today’s standards.

So did I like this movie? Yeah, it actually isn’t half bad. Would I recommend it to my readers? Well, if you don’t have anything better to do. I mean, there are better zombie movies out there. This is the kind of movie you watch on SyFy while drinking a beer with your buds. Thomas did a pretty good job of selling me on this movie. Until next time, keep your bug out bag close by.

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