Planet Terror is a 2007 American action horror film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, about a group of people attempting to survive an onslaught of zombie-like creatures as they feud with a military unit, including a go-go dancer searching for a way to use her “useless talents.” The film, a tribute to the zombie film genre, stars Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Naveen Andrews, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Stacy Ferguson and Bruce Willis. Planet Terror was released theatrically in North America as part of a double feature with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof under the title Grindhouse in order to replicate the experience of viewing exploitation films in a “grindhouse” theater.
Planet Terror was released on April 6, 2007, and ticket sales were significantly below box office analysts’ expectations, despite mostly positive reviews. In much of the rest of the world, each feature was released separately, with Planet Terror and Death Proof screened in extended versions.[ Two soundtracks were also released for the features and include music and audio snippets from the film. The film released separately in international theatrical markets, and on DVD in the United States and Canada on October 23, 2007.
A review by Andrew James
Prescription: take a dose of reality and shove it straight up your ass. Planet Terror is the first of two films that are all a part of Grindhouse: Tarantino and Rodriguez’ brainchild of a throwback to the exploitation films of the 70’s. grindhouses were popular in the 70’s as a very seedy type of theater (very often outdoors) in a less than upscale part of town. They played very low budget B-films catering to fans of extreme violence, nudity and sex; with very little substance or deep storyline.
As grindhouse films were often purchased by these theaters cheaply, they had already played countless times; so were often severely scratched or burnt and even had frames or even entire scenes missing throughout the film. Rodriguez has digitially created this sense of wear and tear by adding scratch lines, lots of pops and a general graniness to the look of the film. This includes the soundtrack; and I don’t mean the music. The sound of the film is scratchy and they’ve placed the slight sound of a projector running in the background. The voice syncing appears messed up a few times and there are indeed missing reels; substituted with title cards that simply say “missing reel: we apologize for the inconvenience.” It sounds annoying, but I tell you, it’s pure genius and it got laughs all around.
Planet Terror all takes place within one evening, but focusses on several different characters and their roles within a zombie outbreak. We have Cherry, a stripper just trying to get out of town, but runs into ex-boyfriend, Wray, played by Freddy Rodriguez. Next we have The Blocks: a doctor/nurse, husband/wife team who are at brutal odds with one another. There’s the local police force of Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) – you may remember him in From Dusk til Dawn (also playing Earl McGraw) – and Sherriff Hague (Michael Biehn). Then we have the military presence and their involvement in the outbreak. These characters include a testicle collecting mercenary played by Naveen Andrews (Sayid from “Lost”) and military commander Bruce Willis. All of these characters intersect with one another at various points throughout the picture.
The dialogue and characterizations were perfect. Each character has some quotable line at one point or another throughout the film. These may be simple one liners or long stretches of monologue that can only be pulled off in this way by a script writer like Robert Rodriguez.
As I’m a zombie fan, this was a fantastically fun time at the theater. Mutated zombies are blown to pieces throughout and there are several gross-out moments that are so over the top they aren’t even all that violent – just cartoonish. That’s not to say it’s appropriate for younger kids. This is definitely ‘R’ rated for a reason.
Without getting into spoiler territory, this is a difficult film to review since the plot is so simple and basically non-existant. Kill the zombie and get to safety. That’s about it. The fun lies with all of the surprises, laughs and unique ideas (like fitting a one legged woman’s stump with a machine gun and rocket launcher that she can somehow fire without pulling the trigger – you can see this in the trailer below as well). Each scene has something fun and intentionally laughable or disturbing about it. A woman with no feeling in her hands trying to open a car door and get away quickly, for example. These are just two examples. The film is loaded with other ones.
The soundtrack must also be taken note of. It’s one of the most creative and retro sounding scores I’ve ever heard. The music was all written and performes by director Robert Rodriguez himself and portrays beautifully the feel of old 70s and early 80s, b-class horror films like Night of the Comet or Creepshow. Some cheesy, heart pounding orchestral music, laced with casio keyboard/70s electronica and topped with some distortion heavy guitar riffs.