ZC Rating 2 of 7: Fair
Marauding, mindless zombies, no first class, no in-flight movies, and no salted nuts. And it gets worse! New Line Home Entertainment lands Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak On A Plane straight to DVD, so fasten your seat belts because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
At a time when airlines have routinely kept passengers stranded in conga lines and airport terminals, creatively screwing-up the air travel experience for so many travelers in so many nefarious ways, can flesh-eating zombies really be more frightening than having to get through a security checkpoint without completely disrobing, or finding your seat's overhead luggage bin not already stuffed with A30, C13, and D2's carry-ons? The writers, director Scott Thomas, Sidney Iwanter, and Mark Onspaugh, attempt the daunting task of answering that question, but don't have the budget or the scripting verve to make it a resounding yes.
What they do have is a good cast which includes Erick Avari and Kevin J. O'connor from 1999's The Mummy, and a clever sense for using the 747 Jumbo Jet's confining spaces as zombies overrun the cargo hold, the aisles, rip through the floor, and barge their way into the toilet. But the promise of a cheeky, retro-fitted storyline, and characters straight from the Airport disaster movies is not realized, although the opening credit sequence, with its bitchin' song and animation, teases us with that expectation.
Yes, there's a nun–sans guitar this time, thank God–a cop handcuffed to his wise-cracking, suave criminal charge, three perky stewardesses, an aging pilot on his last flight, and fast moving bio-zombies. What's not here is the needed scale to make the aisles of the 747 a harrowing battleground, or the depth of characterization and turmoil to put you on the edge of your seat, dreading every minute the plane is in the air. It's a good popcorn and soda movie, but you will find the popcorn doesn't stick in your throat and the soda doesn't fizz into your nose like it does when watching more gripping horror fare. Missing, too, is the realism and normal discomfort of being on a plane: passengers on this flight easily stand in and walk the aisles during turbulent weather, and there's no intrusive background jet engine noise; and for a 747, not many passengers booked this trip, although we keep getting new zombies from somewhere.
The strongest missing element is a more dynamic and iconic personality to rally the passengers against the voracious, economy class undead. While the properly cliché characters are adequate, not much is written into them. The famous golf pro, who carries and continuously polishes his beloved club, manages to knock a few growling heads off, here and there, but, like the martial artist in Snakes on a Plane, his potential is never realized. The quiet nun, ignoring everything around her, unfairly meets her grisly end without redemption, just when she decides to get involved. The cop and the sky marshal whip out their guns, but don't rally or rescue anyone in the process. Instead, it's a free-for-all as passengers run and zombies chase in a paint-by-numbers flow of lively action.
Automatic weapons and incendiary devices provide wacky fun. The outbreak begins when an infected wife of one of the renegade scientists on-board reanimates, much to the chagrin of the hazmat-suited guard nervously holding a semi-automatic weapon in the cargo hold. He opens fire, spraying bullets into the communications box and everything else but the agitated woman. She chomps down and the zombie romp begins. With so many bullets flying around, it's hilarious the cabin isn't compromised. One errant bullet does manage to rip through the plane's interior and into the side of a flight attendant in a deft scene of mayhem. An improvised munition to blow up the zombies in the cargo hold doesn't put a dent in the plane, either, but this intentionally ludicrous scene is done well.
Cut-aways to increasingly worried military and government officials on the ground give the backstory, but tend to slow the action on the plane, clipping the tension instead of increasing it. Exterior shots of the CGI plane in flight are also glaringly budget and should have been used more sparingly. Then there are the air ducts. I'm not familiar with the 747's air circulation system, but whenever I see air ducts big enough to elbow your way through them, the words "convenient plot device" spring to mind. The disbelieving sky marshal is quickly made a believer when he suddenly encounters one energetic zombie in one. (I bet you can't pick out the inconspicuously dressed sky marshal in the photo.)
While the dialog is not crisp or witty, it does have its moments, and the fighter jet, scrambled to bring down the plane, complicates things for the few remaining passengers not gnawing on each other. Only one fighter jet is dispatched, though, so I suppose the Pentagon isn't too worried about the infected plane landing (or crashing) in a populated area.
The DVD comes with two commentaries, both underwhelming, and InterActual online features. I don't use InterActual, so please let me know what you think of them if you do. The commentary with the IGN editors is lively, however, as they chat about everything but the movie.
The best way to watch Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane, is with a bunch of fellow horrorheads, lots of popcorn and White Castle hamburgers, Cane Cola with lime, and Oreo cookies. Toss in Snakes on a Plane, and Spookies, and you've got a night of it.