Planet Terror (2007)


Several months ago, when Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror was released as one-half of the Grindhouse experiment, here's what I had to say about the flick:

Our first half of the double bill is Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror,
which tells the story of a small Texas town and the ways in which its colorful crew of citizens deals with a goopy outbreak of non-stop zombieism. There's not much in the plot department, which I mean as a compliment, but Rodriguez is so damn giddy about his ensemble, there's more than enough to fill an 85-minute running time. Suffice to say that a whole bunch of stock characters and walking stereotypes spend an hour and a half trying to avoid zombie infection -- and boy is it fun. We got Freddy Rodriguez as a mega bad-ass anti-hero, Rose McGowan as a jiggly go-go dancer who acquires a very handy machine gun leg when zombies snatch her real one, James Brolin as a scumbag doctor, Marley Shelton as his hypodermic-lovin' wife, Jeff Fahey as a sweaty-yet-lovable BBQ guru, Michael Biehn as a tough-talkin' sheriff, Quentin himself as a rape-happy soldier, and on and on it goes.

It's as if Mr. Rodriguez took all the coolest kills, characters, and craziness from only his favorite zombie flicks, threw 'em in a blender, and tossed the resulting stew up on the screen. And, of course, it's pretty damn delicious. Planet Terror almost never slows down, and when it does, it's usually so that something really bizarre, unexpected, or icky can take place. The movie is peppered with print scratches, cigarette burns, audio glitches, and missing scenes -- all in an effort to recapture that feeling of a movie print that's seen about a hundred too many trips through the projector. And the damn thing works like a charm. This is a funny, ferocious, and entirely lovable genre concoction, stuffed with solid actors who seem to be having a lot of fun with the material. Fast-paced, freakishly gory, and boasting a few unexpected surprises, Planet Terror is one of the best horror movies I've seen in years -- mostly because it's the bastard son of a thousand other horror movies.

...and now after some repeat viewings, I'm back to share even more enthusiasm for this crazy patchwork flick: Planet Terror rocks! First off, this unrated cut features a bunch of gooey new gore (in addition to some new dialog scenes that are really quite cool), but that stuff would hardly matter if the movie didn't hold up. Matter of fact, I'm convinced that this movie improves with repeat viewings! From the huge and bizarre cast of characters to the plot "chunks" that feel like they were ported in from another drive-in feature, there's a lot of childish-yet-clever movie-love going on in here. So iconic and cliched are the characters and conventions, Planet Terror starts to feel like a satire -- but Rodriguez loves the horror genre too much to go "truly" comedic. (All the best laughs are actually pretty grim.)

Planet Terror is six movies in one, essentially, and it's packed to the rafters with eclectic bad-ass characters, ultra-loony plot gyrations, and more goopy violence than any gorehound needs. As one half of Grindhouse, Planet Terror was a hoot -- but as a stand-alone and gore-drenched homage to the weirdest genre flicks of the '70s, the thing's some sort of mini-masterpiece. (And I could be wrong, but isn't Planet Terror the sort of movie that Rob Zombie has been trying to make for years now?)

DVD-wise, there's good news and bad. The unfortunate news you probably know by now: If you want both of the Grindhouse flicks, you have to purchase them separately. On the upside, both movies are delivered in unrated director's cuts and they're stuffed with extra goodies. (The main feature is delivered in an anamorphic widescreen format, with audio presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 English or Spanish. Subtitles are available in the same two languages.)

On disc one we get a few alternate audio tracks. One is an "audience reaction track" from the flick's Austin premiere (I was in that audience!), and the other is a typically excellent solo commentary with writer/director Robert Rodriguez. This guy is among the best in explaining his filmmaking process in a "low-tech" and entertaining fashion, and this commentary is yet another feather in RR's cap. You'll also find several trailers and pieces of poster art on disc 1.

Moving on to the second platter, we kick off with the "Ten Minute Film School," which actually runs more like twelve. Here we see all sorts of on-set footage (mostly FX stuff) as Rodriguez offers running commentary. Cool stuff. "The Badass Babes of Planet Terror" is another 12-minute piece that focuses on the movie's finest assets: The ladies. The 16-minute "The Guys of Planet Terror" focuses on the numerous manly men in the flick, both oddly heroic and unquestionably evil. "Casting Rebel" is a five-minute piece that focuses on the presence of young Rebel Rodriguez on the PT set. "Sickos, Bullet and Explosions" is a very cool 13-minute look at the way mayhem is made. Last up is the 7-minute "The Friend, The Doctor and the Real Estate Agent," which focuses on three of the background players and their personal connections to Robert Rodriguez.

Overall, it's a very fine package ... but one can't help feeling there's something missing. Aha, during one of the supplemental features, Rodriguez mentions an eventual "Grindhouse" re-issue -- which probably explains where the meatier documentaries will be found. For the time being, though, this 2-disc set makes for a very fine addition to any gorehound's collection. A freakishly fun flick, delivered in wonderfully grungy fashion, and packed with a B+ parcel of extra treats. Ah, and don't forget: The Danny Trejo "Machete" trailer is also included, and that thing's freaking hilarious!