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Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane (2007)

New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/2/2007

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/2/2007

As New Line rode the hype-train to the opening of Snakes on a Plane in August, 2006, they expected big things. But, the movie didn't live up the supposed "buzz" which had surrounded it (and, it was a boring movie to boot). However, proving that one misstep can't get you down, New Line Home Entertainment is now bringing us Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane, as they seem to be determined to prove that many different horrible things can happen on planes.

Flight of the Living Dead opens on a jumbo-jet en route to Paris. Dr. Bennett (Erick Avari), Dr. Thorp (Dale Midkiff), and Dr. Conroy (David Spielberg) are very concerned about a very special package in the cargo hold. The container holds Dr. Thorp's wife, who was exposed to a virus which brings dead tissue back to life. The plane flies through a severe storm and the turbulence damages the container and Kelly Thorp (Laura Cayouette) escapes and kills the guard posted in the hold. As the doctors and some of the crew investigate the cargo hold, they are attacked, but they soon come back to life as bloodthirsty zombies. Flying through a terrible storm and unable to communicate with air traffic control, the surviving passengers and crew, led by police officer Truman Burrows (David Chisum) and flight attendant Meagan (Kristen Kerr), must fight off the ravenous undead and find a way to safely land the plane.

When making a movie within a certain genre, it can often be difficult to avoid certain cliches. Considering that Flight of the Living Dead dwells within two genres, the zombie film and the disaster film, it wouldn't be surprising to find some familiar plot elements in the movie. But, while watching the movie, I couldn't help but think that writers Sidney Iwanter, Mark Onspaugh, and Scott Thomas sat down with a checklist of every cliche from zombie and airplane disaster movies and attempted to include every one that they could. Some of the more familiar disaster film parts of Flight of the Living Dead include: a cop (Chisum) and a fugitive (Kevin J. O'Connor) who are handcuffed together; attractive flight attendants who flirt with and then bond with the passengers; a nun (why are nuns always on planes?); a rendezvous in the bathroom; a storm which creates turbulence; a celebrity on board; the pilot who's on his last flight, and the coup de grace, the scene in which a passenger must land the plane. As for the zombie elements, we get a few of those as well. Flight of the Living Dead gives us a vague and hastily explained explanation for why the people are coming back, and once someone is bitten, they become a zombie as well.

And what do all of these cliches add up to? For most of the film, sheer boredom. The first half of the movie attempts to set up a very small story and then introduce us to the characters. Speaking of cliches, all of the characters are very solid stereotypes. During all of this, we get a little discussion about the plot, but we never get any solid details, such as why are they going to France, and how does everyone on the ground seemingly know that there's the potential for a zombie outbreak on the plane, but no one on board does? The first zombie attack comes near the 20-minute mark, but then the movie languishes on the characters on-board the plane and we don't get any notable zombie action until late in the film.

Any discerning film fan would be very tempted to turn off Flight of the Living Dead as the movie crosses the half-way point and doesn't seem to be going anywhere. But, I must admit, the movie really picks up in the final reel. Again, embracing cliches, the last act of the movie turns into an all out war between the survivors and the zombies. This part of the film reminded me less of a standard zombie film and more of Lamberto Bava's Demons movies, as the undead here movie very quickly and they don't seem to have any real purpose other then creating mayhem. The zombie attacks and the human retaliations are all very gory and there are some creative deaths here, especially the one with the umbrella. This portion of the movie also features some nice comic relief from Kevin J. O'Connor. I am in no way attempting to imply that Flight of the Living Dead suddenly becomes a good movie, but it the no-holds-barred finale is undeniably interesting.

As someone who has spent a lifetime watching really bad horror movies, I can tell you that Flight of the Living Dead is pretty bad. The pacing is languid, the acting is OK at best, and the story would seem familiar to a 5 year old. But, one must acknowledge the clever title and the fact that the last twenty minutes of the movie offer some bloody-good action. If a movie which could have easily been pitches as "Die Hard on a plane with the zombies from 28 Days Later" sound interesting, rent Flight of the Living Dead and fast forward to the end.

Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane taxis onto DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image shows some real problems. There is a distracting amount of grain on the picture, which formed what looked to me like a moving mass on the image. The grain really stands out against the white walls of the plane's interior. Within this grain, we have artifacting and shimmering which give the image are degraded look. The movie looks as if it were shot on Super 8 and blown up to 35mm. The colors look good, but the image lacks any real detail. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a DTS-ES 6.1 track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound design is quite weird here, as we are constantly treated to establishing shots of the plane flying through the storm, but only a fraction of these are accompanied by thunder in the surround sound speakers. That aside, there are some nice examples of stereo and surround effects here, and there's an explosion in the finale which triggers a very satisfying bass response.

The Flight of the Living Dead DVD has a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director/co-writer Scott Thomas and producer David Shoshan. This is an unsatisfying talk as there is simply too much silence. When they do talk, they dwell a lot on the construction of the plane set. We get very little about the story or the origin of the film. A second commentary features IGN.com editors Steve Horn, Eric Moro, and Christopher Monfette. They tell us that they are too provide a fan's perspective commentary. Their views are somewhat humorous, but this is on different from any viewer sitting with their friends and making fun of the movie. The only other extra is a 3 1/2 minute OUTTAKE REEL.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long