Stars: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Dir: Robert Rodriguez
For a better part of my developmental interest in filmmaking, I can honestly say Robert Rodriguez was a great part of it. “El Mariachi,” which was remade as “Desperado” in the U.S., was, for me, what I wanted to achieve with some of my other aspiring high-scholl-age film nerds — a low-budget masterpiece which incorporated talent and was a tribute to greater films we loved.
And “Planet Terror” is exactly what it was designed to be: a loving tribute to terrible, yet memorable, and often cult-status films.
This one has it all: A barely coherent plot, terribly developed characters, “explicit” sex, ultra-gore, fantastic-violence, absurd stunts, absurd action sequences, absurd dialogue, backstories that barely go anywhere, convenient plot points, etc., etc.
But when all of it is done on purpose, and with total self-awareness, therein you have the making of a true, working tribute, and, by way of default, a modern (near) zombie classic.
Cherry Darling (McGowan) is tired of living the life of not a stripper, but of a “go-go-go” girl. She now wants to be a “stand-up comedian,” and on her way from quitting her job, hooks up with an old flame at a barbecue shack owned by the ever lovable Jeff Fahey (I’m sorry, but seeing him in the awful yet groundbreaking “Lawnmower Man” and later in the very amusing “Body Parts” I became a fan of the Fahey). Wrey (Freddie Rodriguez) provides the purposely testosterone-filled foil to McGowan’s dumb but tough without Teflon definition of a “strong-but-vulnerable” woman — a perfect 1970s-era portrayal of women.
Oh, yeah. There is a side story featuring Bruce Willis as an inferred Army Special Forces general, whom has made a deal with an arms dealer, hoping to score a huge amount of toxin which keeps him and his men from turning into face-melting zombies.
And, another side plot: a nurse, whom may or may not be a lesbian is looking to leave her “crazy” doctor husband (Shelton and Brolin, respectively), and is seeing her and her husband’s hospital emergency room fill with increasing numbers of puss-spewing infected people.
Another side plot, still: Biehn (“The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “The Abyss,” “Rampage”) is a sheriff whom, for some reason never explained (purposely) has “stuck his neck out” over and over for Wrey, while trying to learn about his brother’s (Fahey) barbecue recipe. But, as the shit (and the goo-infected zombies) hit the fan, Sheriff Hicks (sorry) reveals Wrey’s true identity as…um… a badass? And, um, Wrey gives Cherry (REEL MISSING) the very leg to stand on to achieve the greatness he always knew she had.
Romero Rules Followed: Very liberally followed; They are feasting on the living, but seem to be killed just as if they were living (including copious bullet-wounds and knife slashes). And they melt. So, about 50/50.
Gore factor: Extreme, and it needs to be that way.
Zombies or Wannabees? I edge toward zombies, but the argument as simple “monsters” can be made…But I say zombies.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: “Planet Terror: is simply fun. Shut-the-brain-off fun. You can’t take it seriously. So, don’t. Just embrace it. Suck it up.