In Planet Terror, A biological weapon escapes into the atmosphere and begins to turn those affected by it into zombie-like creatures with postulating sores all over their body. The dwindling group of survivors band together in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease and work with the creator of the epidemic to finish the formula for the antidote before it’s too late.
This homage to the grindhouse cinema of the ‘70s is set in the present but that’s it has plenty of throwbacks to the days of drive in theaters. The crackling picture, the exploitative nature of the film, many of the set pieces and the filter that was used to shoot this picture make it look as though it could have been made in the ‘70s.
Planet Terror is written and directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn). His script is a brilliant homage to the ultra-violent and exploitative pictures that played in drive in theaters throughout the 1970s. It even replicates the missing reel message that was common for audiences to see in that time period. Also, there are plenty of intentional continuity errors and the like to further pay tribute to the type of filmmaking by which it was inspired. Even the credits and the score look like they belong in a ‘70s exploitation flick.
Rodriguez’s screenplay is excellent. It is full of one-liners and puts its characters in a ridiculous and life-threatening situation where they just crack jokes, rather than grasp the serious nature of what is going on. That was the perfect approach because the concept is so far fetched that it easily lends itself to comedy. Rodriguez took full advantage of the humor that is inherent to his script and worked with his cast to bring it to life in a way that is absolutely spectacular.
As a director, Rodriguez lets his actors be themselves but provides just the right amount of coaching to perfect each performance in such a way that it amplifies the tongue in cheek tonality that is present through the entire film.
The cast of Planet Terror was perfectly selected. Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, and Jeff Fahey are obviously having fun with the farcical nature of the material and that comes through in their performances. There are also many celebrity cameos: Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Savini, Fergie, and more all make appearances. This is a star-studded affair.
While everyone in Planet Terror is exceptional, Rose McGowan really steals the show as Cherry Darling. She owns her machine gun leg like she was born to wear it. She also has some brilliant one-liners that she executes with her signature deadpan, sarcastic wit.
Another factor that fosters the success of Planet Terror is the pacing. There’s never a dull moment and the picture never loses its audience. From the beginning to the end, there is nonstop action, carnage, and utter ridiculousness at every turn.
There are lots of gross-out moments in Planet Terror: Exploding jars of testicles, melting faces, Quentin Tarantino’s melting penis, and more. While the violence is gratuitous, it is intended as homage and not a cheap trick to pander to the type of audience that is looking for the ‘torture porn’ experience. The carnage is all done in a tongue in cheek manner and it’s laughable. The effects are a hybrid of practical and CGI. I must admit that even the CG effects look good.
Anyone looking for a serious film in Planet Terror will be disappointed. This feature is meant to make its audience laugh and recreate the magic of ‘70s exploitation cinema. It is not a serious cinematic effort. Planet Terror succeeds on all levels and will be a delight for fans of horror and grindhouse cinema alike.
If you have somehow overlooked Planet Terror, you must seek it out. It is available in a collector’s edition Blu-ray that also includes Death Proof, the second feature that was shown along with Planet Terror during its theatrical run.
Director(s): Robert Rodriguez
Writer(s): Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Bruce Willis
Studio/ Production Co: Dimension Films
Length: 106 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Zombie Epidemic