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Planet Terror (A Movie Review)


Starring Rose McGowan, Freddie Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Michael Parks, Jerili Romeo, Tom Savini, Jeff Fahey, Nicky Katt, Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson, Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis.

Screenplay by Robert Rodriguez.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez.

Distributed by Dimension Films. 105 minutes. Not Rated.

With the surprising and massive failure earlier this year of film-geek buds Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez’s 70s-schlock-cinema tribute Grindhouse, maybe it’s time that we all acknowledge something. Tarantino has not made a good film since Pulp Fiction, which itself was well done, but kind of overrated. Rodriquez has only two films on his resume that could vie for kudos – and both of those, Desperado and Sin City, were so specifically genre-driven that either you got them, or you didn’t. (Personally, I respected them more than I could say I enjoyed them…)

Still, I think it’s a shame that the studios got cold feet and decided to dismantle the Grindhouse movies – a double feature of 70s style B-movie mayhem buffered by fake ads for other sleazy classics. Like most everyone in the world, I never saw it in the theater and thus got the chance to experience Grindhouse in the way that the filmmakers intended – complete with scratchy prints, missing reels, and clever fake coming attraction reels. The fact the films have been scrubbed up and released separately without many of these loving touches just makes them like any other film being released. It is no longer a special occasion; the stories have to stand on their own – which may not be doing either film any favors.

I still haven’t seen Tarantino’s Death Proof, which honestly always looked to be the much more interesting of the two. Planet Terror... with its mutant zombies, government cover-ups, crazed doctors, lesbians, barbeque recipes and a one-legged stripper with a prosthetic limb made of a submachine gun... always seemed to be kind of goofy.

Watching the film, it is. It's dumb, violent, sexy, and ridiculous. Which, of course, takes it to a whole new level. If a film is purposely cheesy, does that excuse its faults? Is bad dialogue any better because it is supposed to be bad? Can everything that does not work be overlooked with a postmodern wink?

Not really, I'm afraid. Maybe, like I said before, it would work better in the whole gonzo experience of Grindhouse. But since the company is forcing viewers to pay for each part of Grindhouse separately, then we have the right to judge each part separately as well. Purely as a movie, Planet Terror doesn't really connect.

Not that Rodriguez doesn't give it the old college try. The screen is saturated with splattering blood, severed limbs, oozing puss and goofy deadpan humor.

Part of the problem – a huge part, actually – is that there are only so many things you can do with a zombie film. We've all seen the slow, shambling, flesh-mad killing machines before. Just adding a huge amount of gross-out shocks to it and some ironic humor doesn't make it any less familiar.

As is always the problem with Rodriguez, he only throws out his net so far with his genre pieces – he loves to preach to the converted but has a harder time bringing new people to the flock.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: October 19, 2007.

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