Sci-Fi Releases: Another Plan from Outer Space (2018) - Reviewed

With the ever-increasing likelihood that humanity will have to leave Earth some day to survive, space travel’s on a lot of people’s minds. Now that we’re living in an era that sci-fi only dreamt about several decades ago, the imaginations of filmmakers have been sparked, and the sci-fi genre is evolving.  Unfortunately for writer/director Lance Pollard, his film Another Plan from Outer Space is a lackluster look at what the future holds for all of us.

The film opens with actual footage of U.S. presidents over the years discussing space travel, followed by a fictitious news report from 2024 about Mars colonization.  That’s all the exposition we’re given before we see a rocket crashing down to Earth in a desert landscape.  A distressed crew emerges from the ship, and after a gratuitous amount of gasping, they try to figure out where they are, and how to get help.  That’s pretty much the extent of the plot here, outside of one crew member getting a touch of the Space Madness.  Sure, there’s a twist to all of this that I won’t divulge, but it’s nothing M. Night Shyamalan would get too excited about – let’s put it that way.

The most glaring issue with this film is the fact that it desperately wants to be something that it’s not.  The title pays clear homage to Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it does not commit entirely to that aesthetic, which makes it tonally frustrating.  The retro sci-fi score verifies that conveying a B-movie vibe was the filmmaker’s intent, but nothing else succeeds in displaying that outside of a few laughably bad acting jobs.  (Unfortunately for them, they weren’t trying to be funny with their performances.)  They chose to make the film black and white, but the footage is crisp, so it has none of the telltale 1950s film stock look, which seems like a missed opportunity.  Moreover, the script was entirely humorless, except for a couple of groan-worthy jokes.  A film can’t effectively pay tribute to Plan 9 without some self-aware humor thrown in there.  It’s bad, but not intentionally bad enough in the right ways. 

There’s a slew of other issues outside of its failed aesthetic.  The excessive shaky camerawork was almost nausea-inducing (and this is coming from someone that had no issues watching Cloverfield, mind you).   When the scene is only two people, there’s also a tendency for the camera to get an uncomfortably framed closeup of one person, followed by it quickly panning to the other person in equally awkward framing, then rapidly panning back and forth each time someone speaks, occasionally wiggling in between the two subjects when neither is talking.  While using this technique once to convey dialogue that was especially tense or a moment that was disorienting might have been effective, it’s overdone and used at moments that aren’t particularly suspenseful.

Speaking of suspense, it’s virtually nonexistent in this film.  Uneventful scenes of drawn-out dialogue about their situation consume most of the film, followed by a tedious scene where each character describes their dull backstories around a bonfire, followed by one character going a little crazy – at which point the plot is so boring that you’re okay with seeing some casualties, because at least something has actually happened in the film.  That sums it up right there.  Sure, there’s that “twist” that I mentioned, but it’s not enough to save the film, and as if any of this weren’t bad enough, the film ends in an unexciting cliffhanger with no resolution.  Somehow, I highly doubt anyone will be hungry for a sequel after this one.

If you want a film that appropriately pays homage to its sci-fi predecessors, watch The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.  It understands its source material well, and knows how to parodize the genre perfectly.  Not only does Another Plan from Outer Space miss its mark in that regard, it fails on virtually all other counts, which, as a fan of retro sci-fi, was deeply disappointing.  If that alluded-to sequel ever happens, I’m staying far, far away from it.

--Andrea Riley