Flight of the Living Dead (2007)
"At 30,000 feet, there's nowhere to run"
A scientist on the run from the CIA is secretly transporting a body infected with a genetically modified virus in the cargo hold on a flight to Los Angeles. The plane flies through a violent thunderstorm and the container carrying the body is damaged, allowing the infected zombie to break free and start spreading the virus to the other passengers. With no way out of the plane, the survivors have to band together and fight for their lives.
Zombies on a Plane would be a more fitting title as this highly entertaining film takes its cue from Snakes on a Plane, just replacing the snakes with flesh-eating zombies. And it works brilliantly, perhaps even more so than Samuel L. Jackson's tad-disappointing box office hit which received far more media promotion and internet buzz. Flight of the Living Dead looks like it had a decent mid-range budget and was actually in production before its reptilian counterpart but for whatever reason, it only ended up going straight-to-video. This is a big shame as this demented slice of zombie fun is over-the-top and very unpretentious - there's nothing here you haven't seen before, but you may not have seen it done like this.
Unlike Snakes on a Plane, Flight of the Living Dead plays it straight from the start which is a bit of an unusual choice given the goofy premise but it's generally a more entertaining thrill ride: faster, scarier and more entertaining with a fraction of the budget and star power. The plot is simple - throw a bunch of stock characters onto a plane and unleash the zombie hordes against them. Don't expect anything less than a cliche-ridden catalogue of purely one-dimensional characters ready for the zombies to chow down on. There's the snarky prisoner and his straight-laced escort. You've got cheating boyfriends and girlfriends who want to join the Mile High Club. There's a world-famous golfer with his sick-of-fame wife. Not forgetting the air marshal who is too quick to pull the trigger. Oh, don't forget the weary pilot who is on his last flight before retirement. And of course, the mad scientist and his associates. There's so many characters so the pace of Flight of the Living Dead is nippy as we spend a few minutes with each before the narrative moves on.
But perhaps Flight of the Living Dead spends a little too long on these characters as, aside from the initial zombie, there's little action for the first half of the film and everything seems crammed into the second half, meaning that lots of characters have to get written out in quick succession. Plot contrivances and physical logic such as the number of bullets that are being shot on a plane aside, the script does a reasonable job of bringing to life this limited premise. I guess there are only so many things to do in an enclosed space such as a plane and so the script has to keep trying to come up with fresh ways for the zombies to attack. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But the bottom line is that it tries. However, as I've already inferred, the film isn't equally balanced and there seems to be too much going on in the second half once all hell kicks off. A few may decide to switch off before they even get to the pay-off, which is understandable. There's only so many pointless second-rate characters we can be introduced with when nothing else is happening and the pace grinds to a halt.
The final reel of Flight of the Living Dead is where it earns its stripes. Using zombies on the plane works a lot better than snakes, especially when they're of the 28 Days Later variety here - you know the type, the parkour-loving, Olympic sprinter ones with the red eyes and snarling gums. The threat seems a lot more physical and dangerous, and of course you can have things like the zombies punching holes through the floor and dragging people to their deaths which snakes can't do. The gore is plentiful, if too reliant on obvious CGI, and the zombies here get creative in how they get to people, even if their method of dispatch comes with the standard grab and neck bite combo. In fact, the amount of unbridled carnage on show here reminded me less of Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later and more of Lamberto Bava's Demons. The uncontrolled slaughter which kicks off has no real rhyme or reason, it just explodes and keeps on exploding for as many as there survivors.
There's a great ensemble cast too with a load of familiar faces popping up to fulfil these roles. Kevin J. O'Connor adds some great comic relief as the prisoner. Richard Tyson adds the masculinity as the air marshal. There's Erick Avari as the mad scientist (he is one of those guys no one knows the name of but everyone recognises the face - he pops up in loads of massive blockbusters like Stargate and The Mummy). Even guys like Raymond J. Barry are on hand - another of those guys you'll know the face but not the name of (always recognise him from Cool Runnings). Granted the characters aren't the best and apart from one or two, most of them don't get a lot of screen time in the build up to the carnage. I can't really say you sympathise with anyone here but it's not like you're rooting for them all to die either as there are a few likeable characters.
Flight of the Living Dead is a safe bet for zombie fans wanting a quick fix. It's entertaining, it's got a few shocks and it punches above its weight with the gore and violence. If you can take the plausibility with a pinch of salt and unplug your brain, then you're in for a great time. It's a lot of fun, just unevenly paced.
Flight of the Living Dead
Director(s): Scott Thomas
Writer(s): Sidney Iwanter, Mark Onspaugh, Scott Thomas
Actor(s): David Chisum, Kristen Kerr, Kevin J. O'Connor, Richard Tyson, Erick Avari, Todd Babcock, Derek Webster
Duration: 89 mins