Planet Terror

Amiable paean to the B movie horror drive-in.

Released in 2007, certified US-UNRATED. Reviewed on 03 Oct 2007 by Craig Eastman
Planet Terror image

I'm puzzled by this one. Those of you who are savvy to the whole Grindhouse situation will be aware of Planet Terror's status as companion piece to Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. For those of you who are not I recommend reading that review first so you may acquaint yourself with the concept around which these two movies were based, because quite frankly I can't be arsed going into it again here.

Right. Assuming you either know already or by now have returned from reading my review of Death Proof, let us get on with the matter at hand. Like it's sister piece, Planet Terror has been re-edited as a longer stand alone movie so that the Weinstein's can have your money twice, and as with Death Proof it suffers under the weight of it's superfluous padding, although perhaps not to so great an extent. The plot revolves around that old B movie staple of a cloud of toxic gas released by a sinister military unit (headed by Bruce Willis, no less) which turns the populous of a local backwater town into ravenous zombies. While the town's medical staff, headed up by Josh Brolin's Dr. William Block struggle to cope with the infection via traditional means, a disparate band of locals lead by out-of-town badboy El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and his one-time girlfriend and Go Go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) set about the problem in a slightly more practical fashion by teaming up with the local law and shooting their way out of trouble.

Planet Terror image

And that's about it, really. In the time honoured tradition of such things there is a vague sub plot involving the military cover-up and some aggro between Dr. Block and his wife Dakota (Marley Shelton), but by and large the only purpose of Planet Terror is to entertain in a suitably "wink wink" over the top fashion, and to that end it succeeds admirably. While the extra footage inserted into Death Proof constituted twenty minutes of banal Tarantino dialogue, here at least the majority of the run time is preoccupied with spectacularly visceral head explosions and dismemberments, and I was happily surprised at just how quickly the minutes zipped by. Much has been made in the American press of how poorly Planet Terror compared to Tarantino's segment, but in this humble reviewer's opinion the opposite is true. Here Robert Rodriguez has far more successfully emulated his schlock predecessors while avoiding the pitfalls of ego, and if nothing else his movie sicks up an eruption of sheer sadistic entertainment from start to finish: it takes a whole ten minutes or so for the first gruesome death, after which the bodies seem to constantly hit the floor.

Tellingly though it's the little touches which prove more rewarding than the whole, and a fake trailer for imaginary movie "Machete" (starring Danny Trejo) that precedes the actual film is ironically the most enjoyable part of the package. While many will argue that this is perhaps indicative of the belief that Grindhouse was better as a brief, joking concept than an actual movie going experience, I'm beginning to suspect my initial assertion that two ninety minute movies bolted together would have worked a lot better was utterly correct. Still, there's no use crying over spilt milk. Far better to lap up the rivers of spilt blood instead.

Robert Rodriguez
Cast list:
Freddy Rodriguez (El Wray)
Rose McGowan (Cherry Darling)
Josh Brolin (Dr. Block)