I’d be a little surprised if those of you reading this if you weren’t in some way familiar with this film. Released not to long ago in 2o07 as part of Grindhouse. Planet Terror gives the zombie film big budget treatment. With great special effects and filled with A-list actors, Planet Terror only weakness is sadly, that it’s generic and at times cliche story.
Planet Terror opens with Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) a Go-Go Dance quitting her job to change-up her life. Meanwhile, Abby (Naveen Andrews) a chemical engineer with a penchant for collecting peoples balls and Lt. Mudoon (Bruce Willis) making a shady business deal for an illegal bio weapon DC2 aka Project Terror. When the deal goes sideways Abby shoots the holding tanks, releasing the agent into the atmosphere. Cherry Darling later runs into her ex El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) at a BBQ joint owned by J.T. Hague (Jeff Fahey) and his brother the town Sheriff (Micheal Biehn). DC2 transforms the town into bloodthirsty zombies who start attacking the town. At the hospital Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin) and his wife Dakota (Marley Shelton) start trying to treat the wounded and infected. Cherry and El Wray get attacked and Cherry is carried off by the infected. When El Wray arrives her right leg has been torn off. He manages to get the creatures to disperse and rushes Cherry to the hospital, before he’s arrested by the Sheriff. As the outbreak starts to rage out of control Dr. Block attacks his wife after learning of her infidelity rendering her hands temporarily useless. But she manages to escape home to pick up her son from the two babysitters. At the Police Station while questioning El Wray, Deputy Tolo (Tom Savini) comes in missing fingers that were just bitten off. The Police Station is quickly overrun and El Wray along with the surviving police head to the hospital to rescue Cherry. The group manages to save Cherry before making their way to J.T.’s restaurant. The film then has a missing reel jumping the story way ahead. All the town’s survivors are now gathered together at J.T.’s, which just happens to be completely engulfed in flames. So the group decided to head to the military base to try to find the means to escape…
Planet Terror looses me at the same place every time, at the missing reel. I understand the reasoning behind it stylistically, but still the jump ahead means I never get to know how the party assembles. How does Dakota go from holding her dead son surrounded by zombies to being safe at J.T.’s? I can’t know as that part of the story as never been told and just leaves scores of unanswered questions. Coupled with the generic zombie survival story-line and the purposeful cliche story elements, it puts a real damper on the films enjoyment factor.
That said, I really don’t have any other gripes with Planet Terror. The actors, while not all delivering their A-game they do deliver fun if forgettable performances. The most memorable performances are Rose McGown, Jeff Fahey and Tom Savini. While Tom Savini is just a minor role that doesn’t last long, he’s a man I always seem to notice and remember when I see him.
Final thoughts, Robert Rodriguez did a great job catching the aesthetic appearance of a Grindhouse film, even if he failed in catching the spirit. Not that Death Proof did better, it’s just that when anyone sets out to make a film either, so bad it’s good or in a style to make it seem low-budget never seems to pull it off. Something I feel is inherently lost when you purposefully try for these things and Planet Terror shows this. While enjoyable to watch, it lacks replay value and in my opinion actually suffers from multiple re-watchings. 5/10