Planet Terror

Director    Robert Rodriguez
Starring    Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin
Release    6 APR (US) 9 NOV (UK)    Certificate 18
4 stars


14th November 2007

Robert Rodriguez's half of the summer's biggest sensation finally hops into UK cinemas, left choking on the exhaust of Death Proof and hoping the dust of the Grindhouse debacle has well and truly settled. Still, if you're willing to overlook the 'two movies for the price of two' screwjob, then you'll have no doubt enjoyed Tarantino's opening salvo, and you'll certainly get a huge kick out of Rodriguez's half. If Death Proof was a film nerd - talky, indulgent, smart but obsessive to the point of tedium - then Planet Terror is its brassier, trashier cousin; a shit kickin', gum-chewin' smart-ass with a great rack, a foul mouth and a killer motorcycle out back. Put simply, it's a ride you want to be on.

The keyword here is fun: nothing in Planet Terror especially makes sense, but it's so damn dumb it doesn't matter. In fact, it makes Death Proof look like real hard work in comparison.

The plot, as the filmmakers intended, is predictably dreadful, but oozes with cheesy potential - it's a zombie movie that isn't afraid to tread on the toes of the true B-movie greats; Romero, Fulci, Corman, Argento, Carpenter etc. However, it's so obviously dumbed down and played for laughs that the tone is more Resident Evil than Night Of The Living Dead - think a hotch-potch of a thousand late-night Channel 5 horror movies, or the genius of writer (and actor) Garth Marenghi with a Hollywood budget. Planet Terror makes bad movies look good, and that's absolutely a compliment.

From now on, all movies must adhere to the Planet Terror checklist. Zombies? Yes. Mutants? Yup. Explosions? Lots. Lesbians? Check. Car crashes? Uh-huh. Sex scenes? Oh yeah. Bruce Willis? Indeed. Pole dancing? You'd better believe it - I never had Rose McGowan down as a star until she kicked things off by dry-humping a stripper pole. Sold. I'm a dude, so the longest I've ever watched Charmed is the exact same time it takes the brain to send the signal to the thumb to change the goddamn channel, but McGowan is sexy as hell here; all cherry red lips, busty cleavage and endless legs (except in the last 20 minutes, when her right pin is replaced with a machine gun. Naturally). She's so hot, she literally burns the film right off the freakin' reel.

The rest of the cast is the very definition of 'rag-tag' - a motley crew of '80s has-beens, hot young gonna-be's and A-list cameos. It's too hard a task to single anyone out, but for your enjoyment, look out for; Freddy Rodriguez as badass El Wray; Josh Brolin as an evil doctor, who with his sloped brow and Spock beard, looks like he's been doing this his whole life; Jeff Fahey as a restaurant-owning redneck searching for the perfect BBQ sauce; Michael Biehn as the gruff cop of the piece; Lost's Naveen Andrews as a posh scientist-cum-psycho ("I want your balls, darling!"); and the aforementioned Bruno cameo, all jostling for position amongst an almost bottomless pit of B-movie talent.

Planet Terror comes closer to spoofing the grindhouse genre than mimicking it; rather than fastidiously recreating the set-ups, dialogue and camera angles like Tarantino did, Rodriguez is only concerned about where his next money shot is coming from. There are no needless in-jokes (well, very few anyway), no self-referencing, no winks and nudges. Instead, there's buckets of blood, decapitations, old-school practical effects and a mutant Bruce Willis bragging about popping a cap in Bin Laden. But don't mistake this enthusiasm for a lack of intelligence. Rodriguez's punchy dialogue is every bit as sharp as Tarantino's, and if anything, Planet Terror makes better use of the stylistic Grindhouse cuts and scratches (the 'Missing Reel' gets the biggest laugh), and are deployed to much better effect here than they were in Death Proof.

Now the Grindhouse has closed, it's important to have a little perspective on the summer's events. Death Proof would have absolutely benefited from being a little tighter, a little shorter and a little lighter, making it an ideal second half to the proposed double bill. But Planet Terror, cut free of the restraints of a double feature, fully justifies its standalone status: it's a mulch of bad taste, T&A, spilt offal and '80s bravado, all crafted by the hand of a director who knows what his audience wants. Grindhouse be damned: Planet Terror deserves to stand on its own two legs, even if one of them is a machine gun.

Follow us on Twitter @The_Shiznit for more fun features, film reviews and occasional commentary on what the best type of crisps are.
We are using Patreon to cover our hosting fees. So please consider chucking a few digital pennies our way by clicking on this link. Thanks!

Share This