Planet Terror (2007)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 11, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
The Weinstein Company (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1. English and Spanish Subtitles. 105 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Robert Rodriguez:
Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodríguez, Marley Shelton, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews
Screenplay: Robert Rodriguez
Music: Robert Rodriguez
Country: USA
Purchase
I have to start this review by admitting something: my name is J. R. McNamara, and I am a Robert Rodriguez addict. From Sin City to From Dusk to Dawn, from Once Upon A Time in Mexico to Spy Kids, I can't get enough, of that Texan's stuff. Of course, I am pretending that The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl doesn't exist, so let's NOT bring that up, shall we?

According to Rodriguez's forward in the book 'Grindhouse: The Sleaze-Filled Saga of an Exploitation Double Feature', he came up with idea of a double feature before he filmed Sin City, but put it on hold until he presented the idea to Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino loved the idea and eventually the two decided to of make two brand new films that were made to look like 70s exploitation flicks. Armed with one budget and two scripts, the pair came up with two completely different pictures: Tarantino with the car- culture/ slasher love affair Death Proof and Rodriguez with the Fulci/ Romero blood-orgy Planet Terror which were mashed together into the feature Grindhouse. Tragically the experiment failed, and the distributors, the Weinstein Brothers withdrew it from release, only to release each film as single feature, double disc DVDs, this one being Planet Terror.

Planet Terror tells of scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews) who releases a bio-chemical into the atmosphere when he is double-crossed by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), a marine with whom he has been supplying the same drug to, which has been used to keep at bay horrible mutations. The chemical infects almost everyone it comes across, turning them into bloated, pustule covered flesh eating zombie-things. A ragtag group of survivors, including mysterious El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), Go Go dancer amputee Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), sexy Doctor Dakota Block (Marley Shelton, doing her very best Barbara Crampton in From Beyond impression), tough guy police officer Hague (Michael Biehn), his brother J.T. (Jeff Fahey) and several others use any abilities they have to find a way to get away from the town, coming not just up against the zombies-things, but also the marines, and even worse, fighting amongst themselves! Will they make it to safety? Only time and a SHITLOAD of firepower will tell!!

The feature also starts with Rodriguez's fake trailer for Machete, the Death Wish-ish 'mexploitation' flick starring Danny Trejo, but alas other Grindhouse fake trailers for Don't, Thanksgiving and Werewolf Women of the S.S. are nowhere to be seen.

There is no doubt this film is a fantastic piece of gore laden horror. The story is a pure eighties 'bio-chemical weapon' story, like The Return of the Living Dead, but with the sensibility of a Lucio Fulci or a George Romero pic. Even the soundtrack has elements of those two horror masters, with a little of John Carpenter thrown in, with a large dash of Rodriguez's music style peppered throughout. From the opening scene, which is like a C-cup version of a Russ Meyer's filmed Go-Go dance, this film has you entranced. Every line is pure Rodriguez in top form. The casting is perfect: on the 'live audience' track, the cheers for Bruce Willis will wash away any doubt that he may not be a legend of Hollywood.

Rodriguez's use of the 'Grindhouse' effect is interesting as well, the intensity of the artificial 'print damage' gets worse in more intense scenes, adding both to the tension of the scene, and also bringing back memories of watching old vhs tapes where the tape was stretched and distorted over excessively sexy or gory bits, from where previous viewers watched that bit over and over again. Another highlight of the 'Grindhouse' effect is the so-called 'missing reel' which has a saucy sex scene jump to another scene that looks like it takes place a good ten minutes later, which makes the viewer feel like part of the 'What happened?' factor.
Video
It is an awful artifact-y presentation that is covered in all sorts of hairs and cigarette burns: it jumps, has telecine wobble and the color drops out more than once…. But it is supposed to be like that, so I guess it is perfect!! It is, of course, presented in widescreen.
Audio
Like the picture, the sound is imperfect and is filled with little crackle-y bits, but it's SUPPOSED TO! Presented in Dolby 5.1 surround sound.
Extra Features
As usual, Robert Rodriguez has a well stacked Texas Hold-em poker deck of extras on this DVD.

Disc 1

Feature Commentary by Robert Rodriguez is as you would expect a commentary by Rodriguez. He is animated, and presents a detailed commentary on all aspects of the filming of Planet Terror (occasionally repeating himself from the extras).

The Audience Reaction Track is a feature length track that plays the audiences reaction during a showing of the film along with the actual soundtrack…. Like seeing the film 'live'. Rodriguez did this with Sin City as well, and it is certainly a great way to watch a 'Grind House' movie.

A poster section which feature posters for both Planet Terror and Machete.

There are also trailers for this film, as well as 1408, Rob Zombie's Halloween, Death Proof and Black Sheep.

Disc 2

10 Minute Film School is one of Rodriguez's usual extras. It actually goes for a little over 11 minutes, and shows how he did some of the effects for Planet Terror using both live action and cheap methods. This extra is a great tool if you are a tragic wanna be film director (like me). Although the most interesting feature of this particular Film School is the revelation of a future release of a two disc Grindhouse DVD…like it WASN'T going to happen.

The Badass Babes of Planet Terror tells of the female casting choices of the film. There are interviews, and interesting anecdotes from Robert Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, the Crazy Babysitter Twins and Stacy Ferguson.

The Tough Guys of Planet Terror tells of the male casting choice of the film. This has interviews and anecdotes with Rodriguez, Tarantino, McGowan, Shelton, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews, Tom Savini, Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey.

Casting Rebel is a short bit about the casting of Rodriguez's son Rebel in a main role. Shelton, Brolin and Rodriguez all discuss his abilities.

Sickos, Bullets and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror is all about the big bangs and multiple mayhem of Planet Terror. This is an interesting look at the stunts and features interviews with Stunt Supervisor Jeff Dashnaw, with additional comments from Rodriguez, McGowan, Shelton and F. Rodriguez.

The Friend, The Doctor and The Real Estate Agent is a pretty funny piece about the casting of Rodriguez's friend Tommy Nix, his doctor, Dr. Felix Sabates and his realtor, Skip Reissig.
The Verdict
Truly, I thought I had died and gone to hot chick and gore heaven. The bar has been raised, horror film-makers, and Rodriguez is cracking it! Actually, I am going to watch it again…right now.
Movie Score
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