It's too bad that Flight of the Living Dead is heading straight to DVD, because it's so obviously a midnight movie. I watched it during the day with a sparse audience at Fantastic Fest, and that's just not right. If you want to see New Line's latest permutation of the Snakes on a Plane formula (this time, if you're bitten you don't stay dead) you need a lively crowd filling a theater at midnight. If everyone's been drinking a little, so much the better. The film does ably deliver what its title promises, in the cheesy way that is the trademark of midnight movies.
I shouldn't have to tell you the storyline, since it doesn't matter and you'll be able to guess it anyway. A flight from the U.S. to Paris contains some top-secret government cargo, and the doctors on the plane who are associated with the cargo are very nervous. When turbulence causes the cargo to pop open, the fun begins. Next thing you know ... zombies on a plane. Every potential plot twist is preceded by hints that a child could guess, and you should be able to figure out who will live the longest after the first 15 minutes. The scenes of crazed zombies overrunning the plane (and believe me, I am spoiling nothing by telling you this) are the best parts of the movie.
Every cliche associated with airplane dramas appears in Flight of the Living Dead: the pilot on his last flight before retirement, the cute flight attendants who can't wait to hit Paris, the golf pro who luckily carries a club with him ... even a nun in full habit, although she isn't carrying a guitar. Why would you want to use cliches that were spoofed in Airplane! in a film that is not itself a spoof? Flight of the Living Dead isn't a comedy per se, it's a lightweight horror film that's willing to become camp. It's hardly a scary movie, with its only real shocks coming from cheap-shot "jump" surprises. Horror-film cliches also prevail, like zombie arms bursting through the floor, decapitations and impalements using comical objects, and an incredibly dumb final shot meant to give us one last jump. The R-rating is probably for gore and language.
What the movie is truly missing, the one ingredient that might make it a cult classic, is the equivalent of Samuel L. Jackson, or even Charlton Heston from the original Airport movie. Flight of the Living Dead has no well-known stars at all, so unless one of its actors skyrockets to fame in a few years, it lacks the extra fun of watching a big name in a dumb movie. The dialogue isn't memorable, either, so there are no snappy one-liners to help boost the film's reputation.
Flight of the Living Dead is a dumb movie -- it makes Shaun of the Dead look like The Godfather in comparison, and you should expect your eyes to get a workout from frequent rolling. However, with the right group of people at the right time, it can be fun -- at least invite a bunch of friends over if you rent the DVD.