Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Planet Terror

directed by Robert Rodriguez

Planet Terror poster  
Shot on crackly old film stock, Planet Terror is one of a couple of movies released in 2007 under the title Grindhouse, as a tribute to the genre. That's to say, it's a tribute to bad, low-budget B-movies of the 1970s. It begins with a fake preview trailer for "Machete", which looks like a ridiculously macho, badly acted, cheesy film full of nauseatingly pre-PC stereotypes. This lets us know pretty much what we're in for with the main feature.

Rose McGowan plays Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer prone to fits of melancholy. It's not a job she relishes, since she originally had ambitions of becoming a doctor.

Meanwhile at the nearby military base things are getting vicious, and gross. A brutal biochemical engineer (Naveen Andrews) seems to be intent on adding to his collection of trophy human body parts, and in the fire fight that breaks out containers are broken, and the green fumes of a deadly virus spew out into the open. Soon the local population start to show symptoms of an illness that rapidly changes them into monsters. In short order they're craving human flesh and wildly attacking anyone they meet.

Bill is a doctor due to go on the night shift. Before he leaves he prays for "no dead bodies". His wife, who is also a doctor, doesn't want him to know she's planning to meet someone else. Not long after they go on shift they find themselves at the centre of a zombie apocalypse, but in the face of all of that they still find time for domestic disputes.

Cherry visits a failing and unhygienic diner run by J.T. (Jeff Fahey), a man obsessed with finding the perfect sauce recipe. There she bumps into Wray, an old flame who turns out to have some useful talents when their backs are to the wall. Very soon the situation descends into a bloodbath, as the zombies advance. Zombies and their victims squirt huge fountains of blood into the air, intestines spill out like strings of sausages, and gore is everywhere. Planet Terror is ridiculously violent, so deliberately over-the-top that it ends up as a parody of itself and the grindhouse genre. The action comes thick and fast, and once Cherry is fitted with her gun-leg it becomes obvious why her character had to be a dancer. Although how she's supposed to be pulling the trigger is anyone's guess.

There are some good lines, memorable for their utter cheesiness. This film is a nostalgic attempt to recreate a bygone era of cinema, although it's actually set in the present. There are a few gadgets and historical references from this century, so although the look is very retro we're subtly reminded that it's not. It's about the only thing that is subtle, however: the effects are meant to look cheap and excessive, and the action is always crazy. It's far too daft and obvious to be scary, so a film like this really needs to have good dialogue and a strong element of humour to work.

However, the corny lines and dumb, tongue-in-cheek approach can only go so far. How much fun can you really have watching something that's not meant to be good, that plays up all of the clichés and the low-quality overmacho pulpishness for an entire movie? Planet Terror has its moments, especially if you're into cheesy ultraviolence with a side order of daft. But the joke wears thin too soon.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films


Classification: 18

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Robert Rodriguez