UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS: THE PLAN 9 CONSPIRACY ** USA 2016 Dir: Jose Prendes. 75 mins
Ed Wood Jr’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE has a ludicrous reputation as the “worst movie of all time”, its eccentric director a consistently easy target for snarky critics despite receiving some redemption courtesy of Tim Burton’s sympathetic ED WOOD (whose two screenwriters appear on-screen here alongside archive footage of Burton and Johnny Depp).
UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS is a parody of earnest academic film criticism, taking the form of a faux-documentary (peppered with clips from the public domain PLAN 9) with talking heads who are either recognisable genre personalities or actors portraying stereotypical “fans” (a foil-hat wearing alien abductee, a hysterical Vampira obsessive, etc). Spoofing the famous over-analysis depicted in ROOM 237 – in which insignificant details in THE SHINING were afforded absurdly elaborate meaning where none was intended – these personalities argue that PLAN 9 is a hugely significant work, whether as a metaphor for “Eskimo capitalism” or an exposure of sinister U.S. government machinations.
For a while, this conceit is quite amusing, with Mick Garris (positioning Ed as one of the first feminists), Daniel Roebuck and Joe Dante enjoyably on-board with the gag, and the likes of SHARKNADO writer Thunder Levin, Tom Holland, William Lustig and Brian Yuzna in support. The broadly played fictional characters, however, soon grate and highlight the limitations of the movie’s sole joke: the suitably unattractive academic “Diane Freely” (‘Head of Genital Studies’), is one such figure who starts out mildly funny but quickly grows tiresome. The movie itself may have worked well as a critic-puncturing spoof at around the running time of a typical DVD featurette, but it swiftly falls back on repetitive dick / butthole gags and, ironically, ends up less entertaining and commendable than the fascinating old movie it fashionably patronises.
Review by Steven West