Two doctors find their graveyard shift inundated with townspeople ravaged by sores. Among the wounded is Cherry, a dancer whose leg was ripped from her body. As the invalids quickly become enraged aggressors, Cherry and her ex-boyfriend Wray lead a team of accidental warriors into the night.
***Black comedy/thriller/horror about biochemically-birthed zombie outbreak in central Texas*** Created by writer/director Robert Rodriguez, “Planet Terror” was originally part of the double feature called “Grindhouse,” released in 2007. The other movie was “Death Proof” by Quentin Tarantino. Both were standalone stories, although vaguely connected. They were a deliberate attempt to recreate the experience of a double feature at a B movie house in the mid/late 60s-70s with the prints intentionally marred by scratches and blemishes or, in this flick, a whole reel supposedly missing. Trailers for fake movies, like “Machete,” were also part of the package. The plot of “Planet Terror” involves a biochemical outbreak in central Texas that (big surprise) turns people into zombies and the ragtag group that teams-up to fight ’em, led by Freddy Rodríguez and Michael Biehn, the latter a sheriff. Hotties Rose McGowan and Marley Shelton are on hand, the former acquiring a machine gun implant in replace of her amputated leg. (How exactly she pulls the trigger to massacre zombies is anyone’s guess). The movie comes across as a melding of “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (1965), “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) and “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), but with the modern tone of “Slither” (2006) with its gross, deliberately offensive black humor. McGowan is a highlight throughout, especially her opening go-go sequence whereas Freddy Rodriguez is surprisingly formidable. Their romantic arc is kind o’ touching. Another point of interest is the quality cast, rounded out by the likes of Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews and Fergie. At the end of the day, though, “Planet Terror” fails to rise above the low-budget sorta-genius of Syfy schlock like “Flu Bird Horror” (2008), “Wyvern” (2009) and “Sasquatch Mountain” (2006) even though it cost literally twelve times as much. Go figure. The film runs 1 hour, 45 minutes and was shot in central Texas (Austin and Luling, which is 22 miles south of Austin) and Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. GRADE: C
Planet Terror failed to terrorise with its blood-bubble bursting infestation. The first feature of Rodriguez/Tarantino’s homage to the “Grindhouse” exploitation genre, is one that exercises the practical magic of independently produced B-movies. No dramatic theatricality to be seen here, on the misty darkened roads of rural Texas where “Fergalicious” Fergie screams the countryside down whilst being devoured by infected military units. This is Planet Terror, baby. The only quality that matters is the amount of bloodshed that splatters onto the screen. Rodriguez may have directed, produced, written, scored, edited and shot the entire feature, he seemingly tried too hard in replicating the exploitation aesthetic that, if you strip away the grainy filter, comes across as a mildly engaging experiment. A one-legged Go-Go dancer, her legendary ex-boyfriend, and a plethora of other survivors, make battle with a zombie horde that have been infected with a biochemical agent known as “Project Terror”. I saw it in the poster. You’ve seen it in the poster. We’ve all seen it in the poster. McGowan, with the stance of a badass, equipped with an assault rifle as a leg. That’s the level of awesome stupidity we are dealing with here, and to say I craved it would be an understatement. Rodriguez had the freedom to construct a feature so devilishly fun, that it could’ve been absolutely non-sensical and still be thoroughly entertaining. This is the genre where all rules are broken. Literally! Yet I found myself restrained to the confinement of my sofa. Why? Well, Planet Terror barbecued itself by never letting go. Something was constantly weighing down the feature, and I just can’t put my finger on it. The acting smelt of mild cheddar as opposed to stinking bishop. Aside from a few quotable lines, mostly from El Wray, Rodriguez’ screenplay was forgettable and largely an unfocused mess. For example, the sub-plot involving Brolin’s stern doctor character failed to inject any characterised purpose other than to pad out the runtime. But as soon as McGowan acquired that machine gun, catapulted herself into the air (beautifully terrible green screen and all...) and decimated the zombie horde ahead. Bam! That’s when Planet Terror worked! Piloting a helicopter at a slant so that the propeller decapitates the infected? Yes! Tarantino attempting to be a rapist? God no! Turn it off! It was unfortunately too late before it manifested the pure qualities of its genre. Aesthetically though, Rodriguez was able to imitate that exploitation feel. The mass amount of blood spewing from the practical makeup design was exceptional and eloquently highlighted the visceral power of pragmatic effects. Limbs torn off like a family tucking into a KFC bargain bucket. Delicious. The grainy filter that imitated a film reel, “missing reel” included, had authenticity despite its occasional annoyance when infecting the entire screen with black marks everywhere. However, strip away those aesthetic qualities, and the B-movie shine that Rodriguez aimed for suddenly dims. It’s too serious in execution to be considered full “grindhouse”, and that’s a shame. Had it embraced the sheer lunacy of its climactic ten minutes throughout the entire feature, Planet Terror could’ve been bloody special.