planet terror | robert rodriguez | rose mcgowan | freddy rodriguez | josh brolin | grindhouse | zombie | zombies | military | action | comedy | thriller | parody | united states | mexico | marley shelton | jeff fahey | michael biehn | bruce willis | fergie | exploitation
Film: Planet Terror
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodríguez and Josh Brolin
This was a film that I was actually mad at myself for missing in the theaters, but I definitely checked out this one and Death Proof on DVD soon after its release. I’m a fan of good zombies films, so I was definitely intrigued by this one and it was right around the time that I started to get into more of the exploitation/grindhouse films after seeing Cannibal Holocaust for the first time. I did get the chance when it came to the Gateway Film Center as the double feature version. The synopsis is after an experimental bio-weapon is released turning thousands into zombie-like creatures; it’s up to a rag-tag group of survivors to stop the infected and those behinds its release.
We start this off with a Go-Go Dancer, Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) dancing over the credits. At the end of it, she is crying and we get the idea that she wants something more. She quits that night and heads out into the night. She runs into an ex-boyfriend, El Wray (Freddy Rodríguez). He is a tow truck driver and their encounter happens at a local BBQ spot that is ran by J.T. Hague (Jeff Fahey).
On Cherry’s way to the BBQ place, she made eye contact with Dr. Crane (Hung Ngyuyen). He goes to the local military base where he meets with Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis). They are brokering a deal, but it turns into a double-cross with a strange chemical being released in the air. Dr. Crane is taken hostage.
El Wray gets into a car accident and Cherry is taken. He produces a rifle to go save her and finds that one of her leg has been ripped off below the knee. El Wray fights them off and takes her to the hospital. It is there that we meet Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin). He is married to Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton). William has trouble controlling his temper though. He knows there is something up and doesn’t realize that Dakota is planning to run away with her lover, Tammy Visan (Stacy Ferguson).
To make things even more complicated, Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn) doesn’t trust El Wray and neither does his deputy, Tolo (Tom Savini). Things all take quite the turn though when people who are infected by something become blood thirsty zombies. It becomes a fight for survival and figuring out a way to put a stop to all of this before it is too late.
I wanted to go a bit lighter on the recap of this film, as there are some funny and wild things that happen here. Something else about this film though is not so much the story, as it isn’t that complex. There is some depth there due to the amount of characters and it is interesting how they all end up interacting. Something I want to commend here as well is the realism of making this into a grindhouse film. There are fake trailers before and after the film, which I’m all about, as some have gone on to become movies themselves.
Keeping with the theme of the film being grindhouse, the story is outrageous. The zombie aspects of it are good though. They aren’t super strong or anything like that, but the rules are lax at times. I do think they do some interesting things with them though and these ones are completely traditional. They are turned from chemicals, but some of them are able to maintain their human characteristics, at least somewhat. There’s an interesting way to keep from turning as well.
Something that I did like are the characters, El Wray is hiding a secret that Lt. Muldoon knows and even Sheriff Hague knows of him. Cherry isn’t your typical Go-Go dancer. She did have higher dreams, but settled on this job. The dynamic between William and Dakota is interesting. I also love her angle with her needles. It is just things like that add to the outrageousness of film and make it even more fun though on top of it.
I did like that this is almost like a shared universe with Quentin Tarantino. The dialogue here is a bit over the top, but it still has that feel that he does in his films. It is also interesting as the character of Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) makes an appearance in Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez’s joint film of From Dusk Till Dawn. He’s also in Death Proof, the second half of this double feature along with Dakota.
That brings me to the pacing of the film, which I think is great. Something I normally hate is when there are aspects of the story that aren’t fully fleshed out. Being this is a grindhouse film, they have a missing reel that tells the complete back-story of El Wray and what happens to cause the survivors to flee from the BBQ place. In this case, I think it is not only hilarious but keeps in vein with these types of films. They weren’t always taken the best care of, so a reel could be missing. How the film plays out is good and keeps it interesting. The ending isn’t my favorite, but it is in line with what they’re parodying for sure.
What really carries this film for me is the acting. McGowan is great in this film. She is funny with what happens to her leg, which is a major part of the film. I think she plays the character with such a heavy heart and I love the growth there. She is also beautiful. Rodríguez I thought was really good as well. He plays the character with such mystery that it works as well. Brolin is good as he is a doctor, but he is a villain as well. There are signs of toxic masculinity that works. Shelton is also gorgeous and I liked the difficult role she plays that she is partially paralyzed for a good stretch of the film. I loved the performances by Fahey and Biehn. It was fun to see cameos by Willis, Savini and Tarantino. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed, which is over the top acting and beautiful women.
To move next to the effects of the film, I actually gave a little fist pump to see Greg Nicotero’s name. It looks like 2/3rds of the KNB team were here and you could tell. The practical effects not only looked real, but were gross. There is a bit more CGI than I would have liked, especially in the vein of these type of films. It does actually work though because there are some wild things that happened. It would probably nearly impossible to make look real and since the film is outrageous, I’ll let it slide. I also love the realism that is there with having the film look like it is from the grindhouse era as well. It really adds character to and it is also shot beautifully as well.
Now with that said, this film is a lot of fun. It is outrageous and I’m on-board for it. It is keeping with the era that this film paying homage to. The zombie aspect of the film is good as well. I think it is paced in a way to keep it interesting and never getting boring. The ending isn’t my favorite, but it is in line with the genre. The acting really helps to carry the film and effects do as well. The soundtrack of the film really didn’t stand out to me, but it definitely fit for what was needed and helps to enhance the scenes from what I remember. I’m a big fan of this film and I would say that it is really good. I would only recommend it though if you like zombie films or grindhouse era films of the 1970’s.
My Rating: 8 out of 10