After mentally processing the intense ordeal that is “Grindhouse,” my theory is that these two films are more the directors’ homages to themselves than to classic B-films they claim to honor. In that case, “Planet Terror” is all Robert Rodriguez. With the landscape always on fire, someone constantly firing an assault weapon and more than one reference to disfigured genitalia, Rodriguez hits all the notes that have made his previous pictures memorable. Plot? Irrelevant. A government accident creates mutant zombies that invade a small town. By far the more enjoyable of the two films, “Planet Terror” succeeds as one of the best-looking, well-executed, horribly shitty movies ever. And that’s exactly what Rodriguez set out to accomplish.
The cast is an array of recognizable faces including a prominent cameo by Bruce Willis, an obligatory guest spot for Tarantino and an inexplicable appearance by Stacey “Fergie” Ferguson who after a few (at least five) lingering cleavage and ass shots is thankfully made into zombie food before talking too much. The lead roles, filled by Rose McGowan (“The Black Dahlia”) as one-legged go-go dancer Cherry and Freddy Rodriguez (“Bobby”) as mysterious super-soldier El Wray, are satisfactorily acted, but there’s more than enough dialogue in “Death Proof” for both films and their job in “Planet Terror” is mostly just kicking mutant zombie ass.
The zombies in the film seem to be an amalgam of retro horror films, be it your traditional, lumbering “Dawn of the Dead” variety or the boil-faced, mutant-soldier types. Someone deserves a makeup effects award for all this. The pulsating and subsequently exploding pus-filled growths coating the zombies are almost too grotesque to handle. Think the worst zit you’ve ever popped times 100. On your tongue.
Choosing mostly to focus on dismemberment alone, the film makes fun of its obvious lack of plot with parts of the film cut out under the guise of “missing reels,” something which actually did use to happen during old grindhouse flicks. Rodriguez uses this trick far less annoyingly than Tarantino does in “Death Proof” (which chops out a much-hyped lap dance) by just cutting out plot aspects we actually don’t care about. Relevant details such as Wray’s mysterious past would be infuriating to miss in a normal movie, but it’s at this point the audience realizes they’re not watching “Planet Terror” for its profound storyline.
And there are a host of memorable action sequences in the film, most of which involve amputee Cherry’s assault rifle/grenade launcher prosthetic leg used in conjunction with her go-go dance moves. Cherry’s iconic multi-functional leg has been one of the main marketing draws for “Grindhouse” and can be considered as a symbol for the kind of ridiculous over-the-top action infused into every second of “Planet Terror.”