Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy Review
In 2012 a movie called Room 237 came out. It was a documentary about the various “deeper meaning” theories that people believe are in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. These range from the movie being a metaphor for the suffering of the Native Americans, a metaphor for the Holocaust, or Stanley Kubrick’s secret confession of having faked the moon landing for NASA. The evidence for all of these is generally the placing of certain objects in the set dressing or little errors, none of which could actually be just random because Stanley Kubrick, being such a massive control freak, would never do anything without some purpose behind it.
I think that Room 237 is one of the most underrated comedies in recent years.
Whether intentional or not, filmmaker Rodney Ascher has shown the hilarity which results when you read too much into a movie. To me the people in the film fall into two camps; the people who want to be seen as being as clever as Kubrick and so are declaring that they’ve figured out his mysteries, and the people who can’t handle that their dignified auteur would ever make a mere horror movie so there must be something more to it. It is overblown pretension to the extreme and watching people reach for the smallest thing to justify their theories is endlessly amusing.
Evidentially, director and writer Jose Prendes must have felt similarly, because he takes that concept of outlandish theories and instead of them being applied to the work of a director who is regarded as one of the best in history they are, instead, applied to the magnum opus of one of the worst; Ed Wood and his Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy is a simple film with a simple formula: have various “experts” talk deliberately ridiculous theories and show their “evidence”. Alright, fine. The problem is that while this joke may have worked for a ten minute short, or at a real push half an hour, there is zero momentum to carry it through to an hour and seventeen minutes, and I counted that because I felt every single second of the runtime watching this movie. We get the joke, and we get it almost straight away, it’s just that the joke isn’t well told and is only mildly funny to begin with.
The parody here is in the broadest, laziest, strokes right from the get-go of a bad imitation Morgan Freeman narration and then it only gets worse. A raving fan with running eye make-up, an Illuminati conspiracy theorist using a children’s magnetic drawing board to show the secret maths behind the film, an alien abductee telling us that the movie is portraying factual alien encounters who progresses to wearing a tin foil hat, a gender studies professor yelling “PENIS!” at every opportunity, and the bow-tie wearing expert explaining the deep Eskimo symbolism who ends the film with lipstick scribbles all over his face.
These beyond over the top characters are all one note and simply aren’t funny, especially when the kind of people they are parodying are already funny without any kind of embellishment. Then, added into the mix are bits and pieces with real cult movie writers and directors, including Joe Dante, Tom Holland, Chris Gore, and others. Their delivery of their own contributions to the theories is a lot more down-to-earth and deadpan, which looks really jarring next to the more obviously attempting-to-be-comedic actors. The end result is something that overstays it’s already limited welcome and is a chore to sit through.
If nothing else, I suppose Ed Wood would have been flattered by their enthusiasm.