Good thing zombies walk so slowly otherwise Plan 9 From Outer Space would actually have to have a plot. If there wasn’t so much zombie and flying saucer footage, this movie would only be 15 minutes long. Writer/director Ed Wood’s notorious classic is bad, but I didn’t hate it. Sure, it’s “so bad that it’s good” to a certain degree. Even if you usually like films like 2003’s The Room, this one’s different. The Room is so bad you can’t look away, but Plan 9 is so bad that it can put you to sleep.
Flying saucers show up overhead in Los Angeles, and the bright light and loud noise are frightening everyone in town. Also, several recently buried corpses start wandering around like zombies attacking people. We see the perspectives of both the Earthlings and the aliens–who are also human. Yet, all we get is basic terror from the former, and ambiguous scheming by the latter.
We have a difficult time becoming emotionally invested because of the lack of a firm protagonist. Our character of interest switches scene by scene like a soap opera. But something tells me that’s not Wood’s concern. He has a message to deliver. Plan 9 From Outer Space is an anti-war film, protesting the use of atomic bombs–especially during the post-Atomic Age in America. And considering the time, it does give us some unique notions on aliens and humanity.
The aliens here are offended that our government keeps their knowledge of their existence a secret. They’re trying to warn us about our violent ways–not just because we’re going to destroy our planet, but because their planet will become collateral damage as well. However, our government doesn’t want to heed these warnings because it threatens their power and ways of operating.
Despite honorable themes, there’s something narratively flawed about this movie. Sure, that’s not really a hot take, but we often have trouble understanding the details of what’s happening. We know aliens are manipulating the zombies, though we’re not sure why until the end. And even then, it’s a stretch.
The climactic scene actually does a surprisingly good job explaining the aliens’ motives, but the road getting there is filled with confusion. Mostly, the film is bad because it’s boring, and it’s boring because it doesn’t tell the story in a way that’s fun for us. Oh yeah, and zombies walk slowly.
We can laugh at the silly things like the visibility of the strings that dangle the flying saucers, or the apparent interchangeability of daytime and nighttime, but those flaws are more due to budgetary constraints.
What I found the most entertaining is the terrible dialogue, featuring solid gold lines such as, “There comes a time in each man’s life when he can’t even believe his own eyes.” What does that even mean? Is not believing your eyes an initiation kinda thing?
Somehow though, the intention behind Plan 9 From Outer Space is a bit too serious for pure comedic value. Not in the self-indulgent way, but in that it’s preachy and the themes are too darkly ominous to fully accept the laughter we’re giving the unintentionally bad quality. Perhaps the quality that makes this film so bad is its tonal shift from campy to disparaging. And that may be too depressing of a reality to laugh at.