Director Chad Ferrin’s best work – The Ghouls, Parasite/Attack in LA – is contemporary, hard-edged horror with a side of social comment, though he’s also turned his hand to wilder, sicker odder rides like Easter Bunny Kill Kill and Someone’s Knocking at the Door. This is off his usual patch – for a start, it’s scripted by other people (Daniel Benton, Robert Rhine), and it’s an essay in the difficult-to-pull-off gross-out genre spoof field, mashing up parodies of The Exorcist and Airport (or maybe Horror at 37,000 Feet and Airplane!) with what passes for a parade of guest stars at this budget level, and a non-stop spatter of sick jokes, including actual jokes about sick, not to mention used tampons, the mile high club, childbirth, a runny nose (and a detachable exploding terrorist nose), and racial stereotypes (to be fair, the Vietnamese cabin staff complain a lot – with some justification – about Americans).
It has more laughs than Airplane Mode, but so does Shoah … and mostly they come when you’ve been battered so much by zombie dogs, revolving heads, a dwarf with tourettes’ and weird physical presences like muscle guy Luca Pennazzato and human barbie Stefanie Peti. In a well-realised opening parody of The Exorcist, Father Romero (Robert Miano, wisely playing it deadpan) enters a house where a massacre has been perpetrated by a possessee and, in a scenes we’d like to see bit, ends pre-exorcism banter with a green-faced, demonic Vietvet (Bill Moseley) by hauling out a gun and shooting him in the head. Then, for reasons I didn’t quite catch, the priest has to take the corpse to Vietnam and boards a plane with a lot of angry, gross, silly people – green gaseous demonic influence runs through them all, and not many make it to the tarmac at the other end.
I spotted one lone subtle joke – the unmaterialistic Buddhist monk (Craig Ng) is flying first class – and was jollied by a few other half-way decent routines, like the priest who whips out a Bible and goes into full-on ‘the power of Christ compels you’ at a character who turns out to be suffering from Tourettes’ and dumb blonde chatter from the priest’s seat mate (Jin N Tonic), who opts the pass the time by pulling out a ouija board. Bai Ling and Matthew Moy overdo the shrieking comedy Asian accents as cabin staff while Lance Henriksen and Kevin J O’Connor keep to the cockpit as the useless pilots (Henriksen’s character name is Captain Houdee). Also with Kelli Maroney, Sammy the Dwarf, Adrienne Barbeau, writers Rhine (as a rabbi) and Benton (the sleeping passenger), and Ferrin regular Silvia Spross.
Considering the competition in the low-budget horror comedy field, this at least looks great – it’s properly lit, doesn’t look like it was filmed on a phone, and gets a lot of air mileage out of its plane mock-up. And it has a Richard Band orchestral score that’s almost superfluously excellent, augmented by (of all things) tracks from a Lorne Greene country and western album. Yes, there’s a joke about that Twilight Zone episode too.