Friday, March 30, 2007

Zombie A Go Go: Planet Terror Review

This is Part 3 of my Grindhouse experience.

The two movies of Grindhouse are very different. Everything about Planet Terror, from the loud crackle and pops of the film, to the scratches on each frame, to the odd cuts where the soundtrack doesn't match up, to the acting, the dialogue and the premise itself, reeks of a grindhouse parody. I'm going to review Planet Terror in very broad strokes because the fun is in the discovery. If I tell you what to expect, then it's no fun. You have to open yourself up and prepare yourself for anything because that's exactly what will happen.

The movie opens much as the original trailer did with Rose McGowan on stage dancing. The music is loud and angry and the colors are all at once bright and saturated and dull and fading. Planet Terror is no doubt an attack of the senses. You'll hear blood spurt twice as loud and the explosions ring twice as hard in your ears. The gore is twice as gross. You're going to want to laugh at decapitations and say "ewwwww" as red puss shoots across the screen onto someone's face and Dr. Piper says let it out, baby. Let it all out. Because that's why you're here. That's why you want to know about Grindhouse. That's the experience and if you don't surrender yourself to all of that, you will miss out. It will be very interesting to see how these movies play in traditional theaters, but regardless I ask that each and every one of you who reads this heeds my words: Scream, yell, laugh, boo, give a barbaric yelp. Whatever. And if anyone in the theater bitches about it, they should have their asses escorted out the doors, because they're not getting it.

The premise is rather simple. Biological weapons get in the wrong hands, everyone turns to zombies, and a few local Austin residents are pitted up against thousands of them. That's it in a nutshell. The movie centers around a series of separate characters that eventually cross paths towards the middle of the movie and band together to take a stand against the zombies.

Rose McGowan plays Cherry a Go-Go Dancer, and don't you dare call her stripper because there's a difference. Cherry wants to put her dancing ways behind her and become something new, a joke I won't give away but it's a pretty good one. Freddy Rodriguez plays Wray, Cherry's old lover with a deep mysterious past. They cross paths again at J.T.s Barbecue Shack. J.T. is played by Jeff Fahey... man where the hell has that guy been? And if you don't know him, you should know that you can't successfully cast a B Movie without him so his inclusion is welcome and a nice nod to the crowd. Josh Brolin is Dr. William Block and Marley Shelton plays his wife Dr. Dakota Block. They are the two main doctors in the hospital and they're about as dysfunctional a pair as you can find with all sorts of skeletons in the closet. And completing the main cast is Michael Biehn as the town Sheriff. There are nice cameos played by Bruce Willis, Tom Savini, Fergie and even Tarantino himself but most of the action centers around the main six I described above. No performance sticks out because they're all bad (in a good way) but I will say that Josh Brolin was a welcome surprise to the group.

What makes Planet Terror different is how Rodriguez works with his material. This is a spoof through and through and as I said at the beginning if you don't resign yourself to that, you won't enjoy it. If Rodriguez is guilty of anything it's in going overboard in the parody department. There are a few lines and a few scenes that tip the cheesy meter a bit too much and I was not without a few cringes here and there. But everything that you want to happen in a movie like this is here: great explosions, great killings, kooky dialogue, and best of all Rose McGowan's leg. You've seen the posters. You've seen the trailers. You all know already that at some point in the movie Rose looses her leg and eventually has it replaced with one hell of a gun. And watching her spin around on the ground as she takes out dozens of zombies is about as cool a thing as you can see.

That's it. I don't want to tell you any more because I don't want to spoil it. But I still haven't answered the question. Did I like Planet Terror? Is Planet Terror a great movie? I won't say it's a great movie, but I will say it's about as good as a movie that spoofs a bad movie can be. And if doing all that makes it great, then that's okay in my book.


* (asterisk) said...

It didn't take me long, back in the early 90s, to know that Rodriguez was going to turn out to be the more interesting film-makers of these two. Not always the best movie, not always the best-made movie, but invariably the more interesting. So far, with the exception of Res Dogs, I'm still largely of that opinion. I'm psyched to see how your side-by-side comparisons shake out...

Elijah Price said...

I agree with asterisk, but I also feel these two did not turn out to be the superstars they were first thought to be. I am glad to see Rodriguez get back to what made him great rather than sell out with films like Spy Kids and Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Rodriguez, like Ratner, seemed to be making movies for box office receipts, which is fine. Tarantino it seems uses over the top violence, but hey, that's his style.

Piper, I am looking forward to seeing the film. It is hard to debate with you not having seen the film yet.

Oh yea, here is a cool little bio on Rodriguez. Have to admit, he is a stud for telling the DGA to go fuck themselves so he could direct Sin City.


Sheamus the... said...

I love Mike Biehn and zombies. This is the one I am most excited to see.

Sheamus the... said...

are you going to do reviews of the trailers?

Piper said...


Even though you haven't seen the film, I would have to argue with you that these two directors have become bigger than I ever thought they would be.

Can you think of any other director(s) today that have such a cult status? These guys are in their element, they're doing their own thing. They're having fun with their material. I can't imagine anything better.


I will provide a review of the trailers today.

Elijah Price said...


I agree with the cult status! Well pointed out. Damn, I fucking hate it when you have an argument I have to agree with! Still cannot wait to see the film...or for your beloved John Carpenter Blog a thon. THAT will be fun!