Splashing across the screen in all of its blood spewing, gut stomping glory, Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” drops a bomb on a conventional, gore-infested yawner of a genre and turns it into a hysterical, fantastic adventure. “Planet Terror” is Rodriguez’s—the one-man filmmaking army behind the “Mariachi Trilogy,” “From Dusk ‘Till Dawn,” and “Sin City”—contribution to the “Grindhouse” double feature, the latter half provided by Quentin Tarantino with the autogasm, “Death Proof.”
When DC-2, a poison gas that turns all who breathe it into melting, bubbling, yet surprisingly ferocious zombies, a small band of Texans fights for their lives as they battle their way out of the infected area to the safety of the Mexico coast. Leading this small band of freedom fighters is El Wray: the mysterious ex-military badass played by Freddy Rodriguez (TV’s “Ugly Betty,” “Bobby”) who is pulled into the story when he has is reunited with the rose-lipped, vivacious beauty, Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer played by Rose McGowan (“The Black Dahlia,” TV’s “Charmed”).
The rest of the group is made up of the always enjoyable cadre of Rodriguez/Tarantino stock players such as Marley Shelton (insatiable in “Sin City”), Michael Parks (“From Dusk ‘Till Dawn,” “Kill Bill 1,” and unforgettable and almost unrecognizable as Esteban Vihaio in “Kill Bill 2”), horror legend Tom Savini, Carlos Gallardo (“El Mariachi”), an inevitable, hilarious cameo by QT himself, and a host of others, including some that would be excellent additions to the Rodriguez “crew,” such as Naveen Andrews of “Lost,” Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, and Michael Biehn. And, let’s not forget the slightly disturbing performance of Rodriguez’s nieces Electra and Elise Avellán making their debut as a couple of psychotic babysitters, and the director’s young son as the fated Tony Block, whose parents (Brolin and Shelton) despise each other to the point of homicide.
From the beginning of the movie, when we are introduced to the band of commando/zombies, led by a certain Die Hard legend, the movie is wracked with a tension that makes the skin crawl, especially as it follows one of the sultriest opening credit sequences in recent memory, a languid, entrancing go-go dance by Rose McGowan. Shortly after, in a dark veil of black night punched with neon-lights and green clouds of gas, we come face to face to corpse with the zombies’ first victim, played by Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, which proves the theory that zombies DO have good taste.
From that moment, as festering, leaking, gore splattered corpses are wheeled by the dozens into the local hospital, it becomes apparent that no one will be spared by this gas and the ravages it wreaks on those who breathe it. I would continue, but what’s the point in trying to describe an action packed splatter-fest in words when you, dear viewer, could just as easily go and pick up a copy for yourself. You have enough information, go watch the damn thing!
While you do, observe that Rodriguez still makes this genre tribute-spoof, his own with the frenetic, yet electrifying and strangely graceful camera and editing style that has made him legendary. Add to that a blistering Latin-rock soundtrack laden with more gritty guitar and dirty sax than “horror strings,” and a constant ballet of death and old-school special effects, and you’ve got a film that you can watch over and over and over and over and…
The DVD is also a two-disc affair laden with the usual bounty of features geared toward the indie filmmaker and/or ardent cinephile, including a commentary track, the signature “10-minute film school,” a feature on how Rodriguez shot the film in his preferred hi-def method, then “drug it through the parking lot” to achieve the aged, gritty effect, and more.
I saw it in the theatre, I’ve got it at home, I’ll not stop watching it ‘till the cows come home…
What a lame closing line.
AND, for those of you who noticed and, like me, were saddened by the absence of Danny Trejo, RR is actually doing a straight-to-video release for MACHETE.