She was going to be a stand-up comedian.
Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Runtime: 105 minutes
Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, , Stacey Ferguson
This B-Movie horror-comedy film is part of the “Grindhouse” project that was supposed to be a collaboration between a handful of fun directors including Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, and Rob Zombie. The original concept was a massive bumper film with lots of smaller segments allowing the different directors time to flex the directorial muscles in a 1960’s and 1970’s grind-house film style. As things developed, instead of one film, two films were birthed (There is story of failed screenings and finances in the US behind the split, but that’s a story for another day – or it’s widely available online if you are desperate to read more). Film 1, “Planet Terror” which has a main story with other smaller segments mixed in, and film 2, Tarantino’s stand-alone film of “Death Proof”, which also has a segment in “Planet Terror” anyway.
Residents in a rural sleepy part of Texas are about to face off against a nightmare horror which will test their skills of survival. In the process of securing a biochemical agent, Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) and his men encounter problems, and the chemical, DC2 code-named “Planet Terror” is accidentally released into the air, thus beginning a zombie outbreak. The airborne chemical infects large parts of the local populous mutating people into deformed zombies. Meanwhile, Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) has quit her job as a go-go dancer, she bumps into her mysterious ex-boyfriend El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and they plan to leave town. Dr Dakota Block (Marley Shelton) is about to leave town with her girlfriend Tammy (Stacy Ferguson) too, much to the anger of her husband, Dr William Block (Josh Brolin). The Hague brothers are also arguing about BBQ sauce of all things – well, it is important after all. With a zombie outbreak kicking off, things seem to be going very very wrong from one turn to the next. Cherry loses a leg – how clumsy of her! El Wray is imprisoned for his dubious past. Mr and Mrs Block have a domestic breakdown. And the military are as much use as “a pecker on the Pope“. As the group of survivors come together the odds might be about to even out as Cherry gets a machine-gun leg and El Wray’s mysterious backstory is revealed – kind of anyway.
Inspired by grind-house movies of the past in both style and feel, this film is made as a homage with the intention of looking tacky and cheap. For that reason, you might think that it feels uneven or undeveloped in places. You will probably notice the change of film stock used throughout to capture footage. The intentional scratches and cigarette burn on the film also add to the effect. And of course the ‘missing reel’ and intentionally terrible editing that’s presented. Rest assured, these are all intentional, as intentional as the ludicrous story, the over-the-top action, stunts, and gore – but, let’s be honest, if you know you are about to watch a film where a lead character gets a gun appendage to replace a zombie severed limb, you probably know that this isn’t going to be “Titanic” (1997). While it may not be for everybody, I grew up watching what some people would call awful films, so for me, this was just another day – I enjoyed every bit of the tackiness.
While “Planet Terror” is playing out you will see mismatched cuts which at times brings in other smaller segments that act as trailers for other films. “Death Proof” which Quentin Tarantino did as a solo movie anyway but appears as a trailer. “Machete” which also went on to be a standalone in 2010 starring Danny Trejo and directed by Robert Rodriguez (with a sequel in 2013). “Werewolf Women of the SS”, Rob Zombie’s trailer with Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu. “Don’t” which sees Edgar Wright doing a Hammer House of Horror style trailer. “Thanksgiving” – Eli Roth’s slasher-film trailer contribution. And “Hobo with a Shotgun” by filmmakers Jason Eisener, John Davies, and Rob Cotterill, who won a competition to get their short included. Like “Machete”, “Hobo with a Shotgun“ went on to be a feature film too(in 2011), with Rutger Hauer in the lead role.
The acting is decent, but just as hammed up as the action unfolding on screen. There are times where the characters give a knowing nod and wink to the audience, but for the most part they seem to be playing it straight. Rose McGowan leads the line, although the supporting cast all do well enough, or as well as the silliness allows anyway. Her character has hit rock bottom and instead of giving up chooses to fight – and what fight she has to offer. Her ascension sees her becomes a flipping, kicking, groin-exploding bad-ass.
This tongue-in-cheek zombie gorefest is blood soaked and sexually suggestive. It has lots of carnage, violence, and bad language as it trudges forward. If you expected anything less, then you might need to brush up on what you expected from a film which celebrates the brutal ‘sex-and-action’ exploitation films that grind-house style movies brought audiences between 1960 and 1980.
I wont lie, I loved this film. It might be ludicrous and bad-taste at times – but I’m a depraved film fan that grew up watching nasty and over-the-top horror films. This for pure enjoyment and fun, rather than for any important messages. Leave your brains at the door, get the snacks ready, and just kick back and enjoy – if you like this kind of film. If you aren’t into blood, guts, and b@t-sh!t crazy bonkers – probably best giving this one a miss.