Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy (2016) – Film Review
Director: Jose Prendes
by Sarah Morgan
It’s not often that I’m lost for words, but for once, I’m slightly adrift. I’ve just watched one of the most bizarre productions I’ve ever seen – it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.
I wanted to see Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy because its subject matter sounded so intriguing. For the uninitiated, Plan 9 From Outer Space is widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made. It’s also the most famous movie of Edward D Wood Jr, whose life was turned into a movie in 1994 starring Johnny Depp by Tim Burton.
Wood, regardless of his skills as a writer and director (which were limited to say the least), is a fascinating character. In fact, he is far more interesting than his silver screen output. As well as making low-budget movies in the 1950s, he made sexploitation films and wrote almost 100 pulp crime, horror and sex novels. He was also a transvestite who claimed to have worn a bra and ladies’ knickers under his uniform while serving in the US Marines during the Second World War.
“Deserves an Oscar”
I had imagined that Unspeakable Horrors would focus on this extraordinary man’s life and career. Instead, it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at his most notorious movie, in which fictional characters and real-life horror genre luminaries attempt to persuade viewers that Wood hid official secrets about aliens and eskimos (yes, really) within it.
Among those featured is Gremlins director Joe Dante, who deserves an Oscar for his performance. How he keeps a straight face while convincingly revealing what he ‘knows’ about Wood’s clandestine activities is a mystery, but a delight to see. Other famous genre names include The Stand director Mick Garris, actor Daniel Roebuck and Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote Burton’s movie.
There’s also a supporting cast of overblown characters involved, who are, frankly, best left forgotten. The film would work better and be more convincing as a mockumentary without them. It would also have had a considerably shorter run time than 1hr 15 minutes, which would have been welcome. It’s a clever premise, but one that feels somewhat stretched. Half an hour would have been far more effective and palatable.
“An eye for detail”
Still, full marks to writer/director Jose Prendes. He basically takes the format of Room 237, a documentary about conspiracy theories within Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but focuses not on a masterpiece, but an artistic disaster.
Prendes is a horror veteran, having worked as a writer and director for years. It’ll be interesting to see what he turns his attention to next, because he has an eye for detail and a clearly wicked sense of humour.
Unspeakable Horrors is the type of project that is probably best seen as part of an audience – or at least with friends and a few beers.