Robert Rodriguez has no time for being subtle.
In Planet Terror, his zombie action/comedy mash-up contribution to Grindhouse, he doesn’t deviate from his proven formula.
Bodies get ripped apart, a pair of bickering twins smash up cars and become gun-toting experts, a character collects scrotums in a jar for fun, a pilot uses a helicopter’s blades to decapitate zombies and a sheriff is just as preoccupied with getting the family BBQ recipe as he is stopping the zombie invasion.
And that’s before the female protagonist uses a machine gun for a leg.
Yep, Planet Terror is a little bit ludicrous and almost buckles from the weight of its over-the-top mayhem.
It helps that Rodriquez always manages to keep it ridiculously entertaining.
If you thought more zombie movies need to be a lot less serious and packed with moments that are both ingenious and so insane they come back around to being amazing, this will no doubt be your zombie movie of choice.
The plot is basic brainless zombie film material, but Rodriguez makes up for that with some excellent characters and unexpectedly engaging subplots.
Go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan in her best performance since Scream) reunites with her ex- Wray/El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez – no relation), a mystery man that’s attracted the attention of Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn).
Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton) is all set to leave her bullying husband, Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin, giving an especially cold and fun performance) to run off with her lover while BBQ owner J.T. (Jeff Fahey, Lost) is still perfecting his rib sauce.
Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis, Looper) and his soldiers want a special weapon, but their deal with supplier Abby (Naveen Andrews, Lost) goes bad and then everything starts getting crazy when the zombies appear and start eating and massacring people.
Be on the lookout for some references to Rodriguez’s previous films as well as some nods to his Grindhouse collaborator/friend Quentin Tarantino, who has an annoying cameo with a great payoff.
If you’ve got the option, see the theatrical version as the uncut extended edition is just longer, not better. To play into the grindhouse feel, the film is doctored to replicate the old movie house look with poor print quality, color distortions, and even some missing reels — a trick played out for big laughs here.
The makeup work on the zombies is sufficiently gruesome and Rodriguez doesn’t shy away from grossing his audience out from the gushing blood that erupts anytime one gets shot or showing how they infect others.
Like his other efforts, Rodriguez goes heavy on the pulsating music and “what the heck?!?” action scenes. With zombies standing in for regular people, he orders an extra portion of over the top craziness.
Freddy Rodriguez nails the bad a$$ role and he can practically do no wrong from his smoldering chemistry with McGowan to his cautious banter with Biehn. I’m surprised he didn’t come out of the film as the big star. That honor instead went to Danny Trejo, whose mock Machete trailer created such a buzz fans demanded a full-length feature.
Maybe Robert Rodriguez will return the favor and have an “El Wray” trailer before the Machete sequel?
Planet Terror is a special blend of madness. Packed with scantily clad women, a ninja-like character, an army and zombies, it’s the kind of movie a 15-year-old would make if he had a limitless budget and little concern for ratings. Good thing that 15-year-old knows how to make an incredibly fun movie.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10