Sept. 13--If you missed the premiere of "Plan 9" at The Grandin Theatre in Roanoke last month, then it may still be a while before you'll get to see this homegrown remake of the worst film ever made.
Charlottesville filmmaker John Johnson filmed portions of his reimagining of Ed Wood's classic of terrible cinema, "Plan 9 from Outer Space," in Roanoke back in spring 2011. On Aug. 24 a packed house in the Grandin's main theater, including about 50 cast members, watched a preview of the completed film.
The film doesn't yet have a distributor.
"No release date yet, until a distributor gives it to us," Johnson wrote in a Facebook message. "But I would guess next year sometime."
There's no denying that the new movie is entertaining -- if you have a taste for cheesy B-movies.
The storyline involves invaders from space animating an army of zombies in order to exterminate the human race. Whereas the original only had three actors portraying the walking dead, Johnson and his co-producers were able to round up a genuine zombie hoard, many of them from Roanoke.
Jason Turner and his wife, Brenda McGuire, the couple behind the Roanoke Doesn't Suck business promotion website, were among the undead.
"We loved it and nearly yelled when we saw ourselves on the big screen," Turner said.
While the plot of the new film at times approaches the incoherence of its predecessor, most of the cornball, risque humor hits its target, and the remake is even suspenseful in places.
Fans of Wood's relatively naive 1959 original might raise their eyebrows at the new movie's foul language, gratuitous nudity and gore effects. Yet there's a number of clever references to the first film, and an infectious sense of fun.
Johnson told the Grandin audience that he aimed to pay tribute not just to the original "Plan 9," but also to the tongue-in-cheek excesses of 1980s horror-comedies.
Actor Conrad Brooks, who played a police officer in the original "Plan 9," makes a cameo appearance in the new movie as an old man who tries to warn the town's deputies that the invasions have happened before.
Though "Plan 9" often has the feel of a bunch of friends making a home movie, it still has a larger cast and better special effects than Wood could have ever dreamed of. Its Facebook page has about 1,300 fans.
Johnson, whose Darkstone Entertainment specializes in campy ultra-low budget schlock such as "Skeleton Key 3: The Organ Trail," had no lifelong dream to redo "Plan 9." As he put it in a 2011 interview, "Who in their right mind would remake the worst film of all time?"
He had sent a joking e mail to friends in film circles stating that rather than the recent slew of remakes of well-regarding horror films, he'd prefer to see a remake of "Plan 9." The e mail got around, and horror news venues such as Fangoria Magazine took it seriously, reporting that Johnson had committed to the remake.
Once that happened, Johnson looked into whether the project was possible and discovered the original "Plan 9" had fallen into the public domain.
His plan is to give the film a few more tweaks, then submit it to distributors for review on Oct. 1.
"It took me five years to get this movie done," he wrote. "Quite the undertaking. Now I rest. And pick up another camera and see what happens when I say action again."
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