In 2007 a film titled Grindhouse hit the theaters. It was supposed to be a throwback to the classic days of exploitation films. It was actually two films released as a double feature, which I thought was great. One of the films was Death Proof, by Quentin Tarantino, a tale of a serial killer that used his car as a weapon. The other film in the double bill was Planet Terror, by Robert Rodriguez, and it was my favorite of the two by far. Both films have been released on DVD separately, and I waited because there was supposed to be a special edition with both flicks together...this has yet to happen, and with both titles running about ten bucks each, I decided to quit holding out, and picked up a copy of Planet Terror. It was about damn time, too.
Planet Terror starts with the character of Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) leaving her job as a go-go dancer. As the night progresses, she (and the whole town) gets involved with an outbreak of a military chemical weapon that happens to turn most people into pulsating, murderous mutants; runs into her old boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), who is more than he appears to be; loses her leg to said mutants; gets captured by a rogue military group(led by Bruce Willis); becomes a killing machine; and ultimately achieves her destiny and finds her role in life. Sub-plots include a couple who are both doctors (Marley Shelton, Josh Brolin) whose relationship is on the skids, and a pair of brothers consisting of the town sherriff(Michael Biehn) and the local BBQ king (Jeff Fahey) who constantly bicker over a certain recipe.
Planet Terror , to me, has the feel of an 80s Italian-made horror film. The action takes place in a small town, and things quickly go from bad to downright Apocalyptic...this reminds me of the films of Lucio Fulci, such as City of the Living Dead (1980), or the small island confines of Zombie (1979). Also, the presence of the hordes of infected mutants, or 'sickos', is like the shambling army of zombies in the aforementioned films(for more info on these films, see my entries from last October). To further achieve the feel of an old exploitaton flick, the film itself has 'aging' effects, to make it look as if the film has been around for a while...scratches, jumps, and even a missing reel bring the feel that this film has made the rounds at the drive-ins and dive theaters. There's even a fake trailer before the main feature ( more on this later).
Planet Terror is a lot of fun. It's a wild, gory, entertaining ride from start to finish. Rodriguez seemed to truly want to give filmgoers a crazy cinematic experience, from the gooey mutants, to the gory setpieces, to Cherry's machine-gun leg. This is not an overly serious film, obviously, but it's never boring, that's for sure( unlike the second part of the double feature ...Tarantino seemed more interested in having lots of 'cool' dialogue, making the first half of his feature about as interesting as watching paint dry...but I digress). The only thing missing from Planet Terror that would truly make it a classic exploitation flick is gratuitous female nudity. Now, there are a lot of scantily-clad female forms on view here, but actual buck-nakedness is not to be seen...I guess that's what happens when you get a lot of name actors in your movie.
Back to the fake trailer...it's for a film called Machete. If you've never seen this , go to YouTube right now and watch it. Seriously, you'll thank me later. Everyone I know that has seen this fake trailer wants this to be a real movie (and word has it that it will become just that). It compresses everything cool about exploitation/action flicks into a couple of minutes, and we even get the gratuitous female nudity that we are denied in the feature. Danny Trejo portrays the title character, Jeff Fahey shows up as a corrupt politician(like there's another type), and Cheech Marin is Machete's brother, who happens to be a Catholic priest. I hope that if this does actually get made into a feature that it lives up to the trashy exploitive greatness that is displayed in the trailer.
If you're up for a fun, violent, crazed night of movie madness, go visit Planet Terror. The Beast gives it his official Seal of Approval. Now go watch it already!