(18) Dir Robert Rodriguez US 2007.
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse was sadly only shown in its proper double-bill format in the US, UK and Australia – elsewhere it was split into two films. Planet Terror is Rodriguez’s half of the project, paying homage to the exploitation movies that ‘grindhouse’ cinemas used to screen back in the days when he and QT were both knee-high to a cine-projector.
The plot is suitably B-movie: A toxic gas that was developed as a weapon for the military is released in small-town Texas that, naturally, turns anyone who comes into contact with it into boil-covered flesh-eating zombies. It’s spreading and unless they’re stopped, the whole planet will be infected.
Leading the fightback is go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) and rebellious El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), a gunslinger and martial arts expert. Once again, however, we see that Tarantino (who plays a rapist) can’t act but here it doesn’t matter because it’s a ‘grindhouse’ film. How Rose McGowan managed to get a machine gun attached to her leg and fire it without pulling the trigger doesn’t matter either, and it all just adds to the dopey overall effect.
Adding fake deterioration, with scratches to the film stock, has enhanced the feel of the film and, surprisingly, it works as you feel that Rodriguez is in his natural element here after a run making the three Spy Kids films. Michael Beihn is suitably stoic as the Sheriff, while Bruce Willis’ manic Lt. Muldoon is fantastic and his speech about how he found and killed Bin Laden (‘I put two in his heart, one in his computer’) is wonderfully reminiscent of the goofy Vietnam speech that Danny Trejo makes in Rodriguez’ previous action/horror From Dusk Till Dawn.
The gore comes in waves and the dialogue stays just the right side of corny as it all remains suitably far-fetched but never strays into the realms of boring. It’s not going to win an Oscar and it’s certainly not going to make you re-evaluate your worldview or your relationships with other people – unless those other people are zombies. The lesson learned is, ‘lots of guns and aim for the head’. Big, dumb and lots of gory fun.
For Time Out Magazine, July 2007
For original PDF click here – Timeout Dubai, 0729 2007 _ 068 filmreviews