Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy, 2016
Written and directed by Jose Prendes
An in-depth look at the hidden meanings and blistering truth buried within Ed Wood’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, which has long been considered the worst movie ever made.
A couple of year ago, documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher brought us Room 237, a film that explored the conspiracy theories behind Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. They were all incredible stretches of the imagination, but there was something to be admired in each subject’s dedication to their readings of the text. You can agree or not that The Shining was Kubrick’s admittance to faking the moon landing, or you can think those who believe so are crackpot weirdos; to each their own. With Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy, low-budget horror writer and director Jose Prendes parodies the ideas behind Room 237, but not with great results.
Plan 9 From Outer Space is a movie with a reputation that precedes it. Often incorrectly referred to as “the worst movie ever made”, there are more people who know about Plan 9 From Outer Space than have actually seen it. The film’s writer/producer/director Ed Wood was the subject of a Tim Burton biopic with Johnny Depp in the lead role, and it even got a remake of sorts last year. It’s a cult classic and a beloved staple of science-fiction cinema, which makes it the perfect subject matter for a Room 237-style parody.
In the mockumentary, we get insights from theorists such as Mr. Lobo from the Church of Ed Wood, Illuminati-fearer Woody Carter (Joshua Lou Friedman), Plan 9 super-fan Maila Nurmi (Arielle Brachfeld) and Diane Freely (Maria Olsen), the author of Tricky Dick: The Penial Scourge in Politics. There’s also a guy who was abducted by aliens, and a professor who believes Plan 9 From Outer Space is metaphor for the struggles of Esmikos (a reference to one Room 237 theorist claiming The Shining was a message of Native American suppression). Unspeakable Horrors even features a parody voiceover from a Morgan Freeman impersonator. Each of them is played to an over-the-top degree, with Olsen really playing up the ‘angry feminist’ role and Brachfeld spinning further and further into obsessive madness. But while their committed performances are credible, the comedy certainly isn’t.
Unspeakable Horrors, simply put, is not funny. It tries really, really hard to be funny by lampooning conspiracy theorists, but they’re all base-level jokes. It offers nothing new or inventive. Having a stereotypical feminist shouting about dicks and misogyny, or a UFO hunter wearing a tin-foil hat isn’t clever. It’s the easiest form of parody, and the simplistic caricatures only highlight how unimaginative Prendes’ writing is. Not only is Unspeakable Horrors often laugh-free, it’s sometimes embarrassing to watch.
However, there are a few gleaming moments of joy when Prendes gets a great array of cult-filmmakers to share their conspiracy thoughts on Plan 9 From Outer Space. While it would have been far more interesting for them to talk about how the film actually affected their work, we instead get forced insights from the likes of William Lustig (Maniac Cop), Tom Holland (Child’s Play), Joe Dante (Gremlins), Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator), Shane Bitterling (Puppet Master X), Thunder Levin (Sharknado) and many more. Even the writers of the Ed Wood biopic are part of this farce. But unlike the actors and characters, the dialogue they’re given to work with is delivered so earnestly, and because of that there are some small chuckles of laughter to be found. Not huge amounts, but far more than the ridiculous attempts at satire seen elsewhere.
It’s clear what Unspeakable Horrors was going for, but it misses the mark by some margin. Simply saying that innocuous objects in the background are a sign of the Illuminati, or that tree wigs represent phallic objects isn’t funny. Neither is saying aliens are after buttholes over and over again. Neither is interviewing and pixalating the face of Evil Bong 420 writer Kent Roudebush while he’s sitting on the toilet. The whole endevour is rather childish and immature, which is a real shame. There is a lot to talk about from Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, but Unspeakable Horrors isn’t the way to do it. The fact that Prendes was able to cajole so many great writers and directors to be involved in this is remarkable. There will be people who will find humour in Unspeakable Horrors, but this writer is not one of them.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made (which you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US). You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.
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