You win some, you lose some.
Letting Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez follow their film geek muse by making a double-feature homage to trashy Z-grade movies must have seemed like a can’t miss proposition back in 2007.
Naturally, Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s decision to let the directorial pairing’s collective id run unchecked was one of the more pricey follies of that year, as the film radically unperformed at the box office and was met with a collective shrug by film critics.
Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” is the section with the most relevance to this Halloween Horror blog, being largely concerned with hideous mutations running amok, zombie shenanigans, characters having their unmentionables hacked off and all manner of juvenile stuff guaranteed to make you wonder if the director is, in actual fact, an honest-to-goodness teenage boy stuck in the body of a middle-aged man. If that makes you think of the movie “Big”, I’m right there with you, but dread to think just what Robert Rodriguez would make with that premise.
Beginning with the director’s then-muse Rose McGowan essaying the difference between go-go dancing and striptease in a scuzzy Texan club, there’s certainly enough South-Western guitar slinging and surface style to initially grab the attention. Attention which is then held by a grotesque face-off between testicle-hoarding scumbag Naveen Andrews and mutant psycho military type Bruce Willlis and the introduction of martial strife between Marley Shelton’s anethetist and her doctor husband Josh Brolin.
We have a lot of plotlines colliding before we even get into the travailles of trucker hero Freddy Rodriguez, vaguely crooked local sheriff Michael Biehn and rib-joint proprietor Jeff Fahey and that’s kind of the problem with “Planet Terror”.
There’s way too much going on. It’s a film permanently on eleven, with barely a grasp of how to structure the chaotic action, gore, girls and meta-commentary on exploitation cinema into something coherant. The net effect of watching this film is like having an energy drink-addled friend explain the plots of their favourite VHS-era horror flicks and realising that one man’s gloopy monster fun is another’s shrill, tone-deaf mess.
The cast gives it their best, with Marley Shelton probably better than the movie deserves and the inevitable Tarantino cameo being mercifully short and commitedly gross, but you do wonder how the likes of Willis felt about having their names linked to a movie which boasts more close-ups of diseased body parts and pus-filled God-only-knows-what than can be found on the internet forum of your nightmares.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll be clued into the fact that I really didn’t care for this movie – it’s a one-note in-joke of a film which possibly plays better for you if you’re as in thrall to no-budget exploitation fare as Tarantino and Rodriguez clearly are. If you regard Z-grade schlock as fun but not the kind of stuff that you want to spend $60 million smackers to emulate, your mileage may vary.
It’s a big old shoulder-shrugging, bemusing ‘Huh?’ of a movie. How can a movie featuring a heroine with an M16 for a leg be as dull as this film was is anybody’s guess…