In 2007 the GrindHouse films along with their fake trailers were released in theaters. Apparently, they were shown as a double feature one right after the other in between which were placed various fake trailers by as various directors as Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, and Eli Roth as well as the directors of the two films Death Proof and Planet Terror. In those days, Quentin Tarantino’s name still had value for me and the fact that the film was to star one of my favorite actors, Kurt Russell really amped up my anticipation. I didn’t really pay attention to Planet Terror assuming it would be the inferior of the two films. I never really liked Robert Rodriguez’s take on horror in From Dusk till Dawn although I liked his Scream like analysis of Sci Fi in The Faculty and the phenomenal Sin City but was rather disappointed by the third film in his El Mariachi Trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico. So, after being disappointed by the overlong, whiny, talky, bitchy Death Proof , whose awesome action scenes weren’t nearly enough to make up for its godawful dialogue, I turned my sights on Planet Terror. I am happy to say that it is another one of my must see Halloween Flicks. It is exploitation at its most exploitative. It is beautiful garbage made with loving care aged film reel by aged film reel.
Don’t ask about the story or plot. It’s not meant to make sense. There’s green gas that turns people into zombies with bubbling goo oozing out over their faces. Zombie soldiers who control their complete transformations somehow by sucking in more of the gas via gas masks play a slightly antagonistic role. The beauty of this film is in the characters and the gleefully B-film script. There’s even a missing reel for goodness sake in the middle completely eliminating the second act. Come to think of it, The Avengers: Age of Ultron could have used a trick like that and been better for it.
Rose McGowan plays a go-go dancer Cherry who gives an exploitative full on dance in the beginning complete with mirrors, a pole, and a raunchy saxophone solo echoing the bolero of the film’s catchy theme (composed as always by the director). In the dressing room, there are the usual assortment of hot chicks, two kissing, many topless, and a whiny cowboy of a manager with a Hank Hill like voice chiding her not to cry when on stage as “this is Go-Go not Cry-Cry”. This is the first in a series of purposefully bad dialogue acted and spoken with a wink which cracks me up every single time. My favorite has to be that of a cop (Michael Biehn)who arrests the hero of this picture, Freddy Rodriguez as El Wray, sermonizing him with the memorable line, “You come in here with a girl missing a leg, a leg which has now gone missing?” The Drs. Block (Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton) also have bloody, horrific adventures in the emergency room at their hospital with all the zombie victims coming in. There’s even a pal of the husband, Dr. Felix (Felix Sabates) who continuously spouts several horrible symptoms of venereal diseases complete with horrible pictures to match.
In the same way that Sin City was all the noir candy in the noir candy store I wanted, Planet Terror is all the gross, exploitative garbage in the exploitative garbage dump I could possibly ask for. At one point, a hearty, homely BBQ restaurant owner JT (Jeff Fahey) reveals his arsenal of beautiful vintage cars, weapons, and motorcycles which seem primed and ready for just such as an occasion as this. It’s just beautiful. Apparently Rodgriguez used actual damaged film for the “not so well kept” nature of the picture quality. There seem to be scratches, skipped frames etc all to induce the exploitation feel. It’s truly a masterpiece in its own right.