On the fourteenth day of Halloween, a mysterious green mist gave to me: Planet Terror, (Robert Rodriguez, 2007)
The theme for the next set of reviews is a startlingly original one. You know, I’m not sure if many people know about this really obscure genre, so I feel it’s my duty to shed light on this group of movies, none of which were ever popular or had any fans. I really feel that it’s this underdog’s time to shine, and get the recognition it deserves. These movies keep getting shot down, but they never manage to stay dead
So hold onto your butts, because I’m about to blow your mind. This week’s theme is….
You don’t have to be a horror geek to know that zombies have exploded in the last decade or so. While zombies have always been a horror staple, zombies experienced an unprecedented renaissance in the 2000s. There are countless video games ,(Dead Island, Resident Evil, Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, those weird COD maps) TV shows ,(The Walking Dead, Z Nation, iZombie) and movies (The Resident Evil series, Zombieland, The Dawn of the Dead remake), all featuring horror’s favorite child. Shit, I’ve already reviewed one zombie movie, Shaun of the Dead.
This genre is overflowing with movies and adaptations and spin-offs, but not all of them are quite up to snuff. I’ve tried to narrow down this expansive group of films to my favorites, which was pretty difficult. I have a strange affinity for zombies: I don’t know why, but they scratch a weird itch in my soul and always cheer me up.
One of the things I love about the zombie genre is how flexible it is. Zombie comedies? Brilliant. Zombie romances? Wonderful. Zombie romantic comedies? Even BETTER. They’re the Swiss Army Knives of monsters, and can be used to scare, teach, warn, or amuse. And zombies = mad gore, so that’s always a plus.
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce the first zombie movie on the docket: the first part of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s double feature, Grindhouse: Planet Terror.
Pulpier than an overripe orange
After a mysterious gas is released in an arms deal gone south, the residents of bum-fuck nowhere must deal with a sudden influx of bite-y, melty-faced corpses. Reunited ex-lovers Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) and El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) lead a group of survivors as they seek help, only to realize that they’re on their own.
INFIDELITY! GUNS! ROMANCE! VIOLENCE! GORE! BOOBIES!
So first things first: if you’re not into weird, shitty, 70s B-movies, then you should probably pass on this one. Planet Terror is part of a two-part throwback to the campy, pulpy films of the 1960s and 70s, appropriately titled Grindhouse. Grindhouse is comprised of two movies: Planet Terror and Death Proof. Long-time partners in crime Robert Rodrieguez and Quentin Tarantino wrote and produced the duo, and both are very much in line with their earlier work.
Planet Terror is 100% a pastiche to the shitty horror films of yonder. It’s absolutely ridiculous– a woman loses her leg and replaces it with a fucking machine gun– and full of trite, canned dialogue. The gore is beyond over the top, and the whole movie is just a crude, absurd, mess.
But that’s what makes it so great: it’s excess for the sake of excess, all with a high production value and a great cast. It’s stylized in every respect: the lighting is sallow and saturated, the film is grainy and the music is all retro smoky jazz-rock. The only thing this movie is serious about is being not-serious. Planet Terror is absolutely absurd, and it knows that. And as long as you know that it knows that, you’ll have a rockin’ time.
But this is about the dead people
Style aside, this is a zombie movie. And these zombies are gross. These guys are the melty-face, boils-and-pustules, dripping-liquefied-organic-matter zombies. While they’re pretty distinct looking as far as zombies go, they’re otherwise pretty standard. They shamble, they bite, they snarl, etc. They’re not necessarily here to serve as an allegory or anything: they’re just some grody-looking brain-nibblers. And sometimes, that’s all you need.
There are some definite possible triggers in this movie beyond gore (attempted sexual assault, needles, abuse, death of a child) so just a heads up.
And as always
Of course, this homage falls into the same traps its predecessors did (though admittedly not to the same extent): overt objectification of women, threats of sexual violence, etc. While I understand that Planet Terror is a pastiche of a style riddled with the above… it was made in 2007, not the 70s. We can throw out the bathwater and keep the baby, folks.
Also, why Tarantino has to play a creepy dude in like all of his cameos will always mystify me.
….oh wait, he’s a creepy dude in real life
Planet Terror is a movie for people who like movies, but is also a solid, satisfying zombie flick. As long as you “get” what Rodriguez and Tarantino are going for, this film rocks as hard as it rolls. It’s campy and pulpy and gross, which is all sorts of wonderful. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be certain. But what it lacks in heart…..
It makes up for with guts.
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