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If you grew up going to big, dark, seedy movie theaters or rundown drive-ins that showed battered, tattered, spliced-and-diced prints of cheap exploitation flicks--and loving every
minute of it--then Robert Rodriguez' incredibly well-rendered homage to all that great stuff, PLANET TERROR (2007), just might be more fun than you can handle.
Originally part of the Rodriguez-Tarantino team-up GRINDHOUSE, which also featured QT's roadkill thriller DEATH PROOF, PLANET TERROR now stands alone on DVD in an extended, unrated version that is pure adrenaline-fueled goofy fun from beginning to end.
The movie plunks us smack-dab into the old grindhouse atmosphere right off the bat with original "prevues of coming attractions" and "our feature presentation" clips, along with a kickass, spot-on trailer parody for a fictitious flick called MACHETE starring the ever-popular Danny Trejo as a blade-wielding badass for hire. It's only a couple of minutes long, but it contains enough outrageous action clips and gravely-intoned taglines ("If you're going to hire him to kill the bad guy--you'd better make damn sure the bad guy isn't YOU!") to make us wish it was a real movie. (Which it soon will be, apparently--according to IMDb, Rodriguez is preparing MACHETE for an '08 release.)
After a vintage clip informing us that the following movie is intended for adults only, PLANET TERROR kicks in full blast with a title sequence featuring scantily-clad star Rose McGowan doing a very energetic pole-dance in a seedy Texas club. Holy G-strings, Batman! I don't know how you'll react, but it got my full attention. Rose is definitely lookin' good these days.
Her character, Cherry Darling, quits the club in the not-too-likely hope of becoming a stand-up comedian. On the walk home she's almost run over by a convoy of vehicles on its way to an abandoned military base. Here, a shady deal goes down between greedy scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews, "Lost") and a group of renegade soldiers led by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) concerning a mysterious toxic gas called DC-2. The soldiers, it turns out, have been exposed to the gas and now need to inhale it in measured doses to counteract its horrific effects. But the deal erupts into a bloody gunfight, and before long a cloud of DC-2 is headed toward town.
Meanwhile, Cherry runs into her old lover Wray (Freddy Rodríguez, "Six Feet Under") in a roadside barbecue joint called The Bone Shack, which is run by the grizzled J.T. Hague (an almost unrecognizable Jeff Fahey). Cherry bums a ride home in Wray's wrecker truck, but they're attacked by some flesh-eating DC-2 zombies who make off with Cherry's right leg. At the hospital, soon-to-become-zombies are pouring into the emergency ward, where Josh Brolin is doing his best Nick Nolte imitation as the burnt-out, hypochondriac Dr. Block. Block is preoccupied by the fact that his wife, Dakota (Marley Shelton, SIN CITY) is having an affair with another woman played by "Fergie" of the Black-Eyed Peas, Stacy Ferguson. But he'll have more pressing concerns on his hands when the hospital begins to fill up with pus-spewing, gut-chomping zombies.
Wray gets hauled off to jail by Sheriff Hauge (Michael Biehn), who has had previous legal troubles with him. The sheriff is J.T.'s brother, and one of the funniest running gags in the film is him desperately trying to coerce J.T. into sharing his secret barbecue sauce recipe with him. But while he's booking Wray for whatever he can think of, zombies strike the police station in force and there's another extremely bloody battle.
Wray eventually makes his way back to the hospital to rescue Cherry, ramming a table leg onto the end of her stump in lieu of a more traditional prosthesis. The "Lt. Dan"-style missing-leg effects are awesome here, especially when Wray later replaces the table leg with a machine gun/grenade launcher that turns Cherry into one of the coolest warrior women in movie history.
Yet another awesome shoot-em-up scene occurs at the besieged, flame-engulfed barbecue joint, where the non-infected survivors have congregated and we discover that Wray is really El Wray. The significance of this is never explained (not only does the film "melt" during the big sex scene, but there's actually a missing reel!) but it's enough to convince Sheriff Hague, who tells his deputy, "Give him a gun. Give him all the guns." The survivors' flight down the highway in whatever escape vehicles they can scrounge up is a thrilling sequence highlighted by the sheriff bashing zombie pedestrians to bloody smithereens in Wray's wrecker while Wray heads the convoy on a tiny pocket bike.
The finale occurs at the old military base after they've all been detained by Lt. Muldoon and his renegade soldiers. Tarantino turns up as a lecherous psycho who tries to act out his women-in-cages fantasies with Cherry and Dakota, and ends up "getting the point", so to speak. His performance has been derided by some, but Tarantino knows exactly what kind of character he's playing and does it to a tee. (He also gets to perform the film's biggest gross-out scene, and boy, is it gross.) The good guys eventually escape from their cells and battle their way toward a helicopter, and not only does everything blow up real good but Cherry gets a mind-boggling opportunity to display her newly-developed battle skills in one of the coolest scenes ever.
All of this weird, wild stuff is wrought with all the directorial skills, grindhouse nostalgia, and giddy Monster Kid glee that Robert Rodriguez can muster. Once this thing gets started, it's non-stop over-the-top action all the way, drenched in gouts of fake blood 'n' guts and brimming with all the wonderful 70s exploitation elements Rodriguez can cram into it.
Stylistically, it's a near-perfect homage, complete with scratchy film, bad edits and splices to give it the look of an old, battered print that's been shown too many times, arch dialogue, and special effects that are well-rendered while being intentionally cheesy-looking. With the DVD's audience-reaction track activated, which to me is the only way to watch this film, it's like sitting in a cheap theater back in the old days. Rodriguez' conviction to go all the way with this concept has resulted in one of the most fun movies I've ever seen.
The entire cast is outstanding. Michael Parks returns as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, a character that has appeared in Rodriguez' FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and Tarantino's KILL BILL and is further developed here. Gore makeup master Tom Savini and the original "El Mariachi" himself, Carlos Gallardo, appear as deputies. Rodriguez' twin nieces, Elise and Electra Avellán, play the Crazy Babysitter Twins, who should definitely be in their own movie. And his son Rebel does a nice job as the Blocks' young son, Tony, who loves tarantulas and scorpions but should never be trusted with a gun.
This DVD is one of the best Christmas gifts I ever got. Rarely have I had this much pure, unadulterated fun watching a movie. Of course, if you're one of those people who post on IMDb asking puzzled questions like "what's with all the scratches?" or pointing out all the obvious "goofs" and "gaffes", this movie probably isn't for you. But if you're an old-school flick fan who gets what Robert Rodriguez is up to here from the git-go, then chances are PLANET TERROR is an exploitation extravaganza that will be held over for an extended run in your home grindhouse theater.
Added: Thursday, January 17, 2008
Related Link: Official site (Spanish)
Language: eng[ Did you find this review helpful? Yes No ]
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