Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak On A Plane is a direct-to-DVD release that exists independently of George Romero and John Russo’s zombie franchises that started out sharing the same grave. So to speak. Their Night of the Living Dead is an iconic zombie film that started the whole trend of the horror sub-genre and created international fans.
Scott Thomas has done a lot of episodic television and low-budget films, and he has the right sensitivity – if you can be sensitive about zombies – to this kind of film. In addition to directing the movie, Thomas also helped write it with Sidney Iwanter and Mark Onspaugh.
There are no stars in this feature, but there are some guys who’ve been around the block. David Chisum plays Special Agent Truman Burroughs, one of the good guys. You might know him from the television soap, One Life to Live.
Richard Tyson plays US Air Marshal Paul Judd. Tyson has been a major player at times in big movies, such as the villain in Schwarzenegger’s Kindergarten Cop.
Neither one of our heroes is really outstanding. But they don’t have to be. It’s zombies on an airplane!
I showed the DVD to my 10-year-old, who hasn’t become a zombie fan yet, though he did watch Dawn of the Dead (the remake) with me recently. Then he spent the night in bed with me and his mom. Zombies have to be acclimated to slowly, I think.
But his first comment was, “On a plane, huh? They’re not going to get away, are they? There’s nowhere to run.”
And that, my friends, was probably the pitch line used by the movie developers. Honestly, it was enough to get me to the screen and start watching zombies crawling through the big Concord jet. You really won’t believe how many zombies can be put on one of those big jets!
The plot is simple. All zombie movie plots are simple. After a cast of characters are introduced – most of them not so likeable because they’re interested in sex or drugs or just being mean to each other, and a few of them who are decent people that we’ll root for and lose most of – something sets the zombies into action.
In Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak On A Plane, we have mad scientists fleeing the US government after being found out. The scientists, headed by Dr. Leo Bennett (Erick Avari), have discovered a way to genetically alter humans so that after they die they “come back to life.” The research was initially for a bio-weapon that was going to be used on soldiers. If soldiers were killed, they could re-animate and fight on. After they turned out to be mindless brutes capable of spreading contagion, it was decided that the military could infect prisoners and let them return to the enemy armies to spread the “disease.”
Unfortunately, one of the scientists’ wives was exposed to the biological contaminant. She’s been placed in suspended animation and kept on ice till they can cure her. However, the flight hits a freak storm and the containment unit is compromised. She’s released, killed by the guard posted in the cargo area, then reanimates as a flesh-eating zombie.
That’s the plot. After that, the special effects crews have a blast and the body count skyrockets.
Zombie fans will probably have a blast playing ancillary games while watching the movie. Stuff like picking the first to die. Picking those who will survive. Counting bullets to see whose gun should be empty. Thinking up excuses why – after it’s Swiss cheesed by bullets – the plane doesn’t decompress until a crucial moment in the movie when the plot needs that to happen.
Cheesy as the movie is, it doesn’t stint on gore or action. People die in gruesome ways. Sex is hinted at. Bodies reanimate when the heroes have their backs to them and no matter how loudly you yell at the television, they’re not going to hear you.
I was surprised, even though the acting was lackadaisical and there weren't even any real one-liners that stuck in my memory, how keyed up I got over the movie. I knew my emotions were being toyed with. But I didn’t care. I put aside my movie critic hat and plunged into the childish delight of a zombie lover.
By the end of the movie, there were so many zombies crawling around the plane it looked like an anthill. I wasn’t anxious about it even though there were a few surprises (I would have blown the “who’s gonna die next” competition, and I would have even lost a few on the “who’s gonna live” list).
Although Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak On A Plane isn’t going to win any drama awards, and not even any in horror, it’s a fun watch for zombie fans. At an hour and a half, it’s just the right length to send out for a pizza, take a few shots at the plot and characters, and adlib some insane lines that should have been in the movie. Horror fans who love a touch of comedy and don’t mind some deliberate 'willing suspension of disbelief' should have a grand time with this one.