PLANET TERROR begins with go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) quitting her job and hitting the road to pursue her dream of being a stand-up comedian. She herself doesn't think she's very funny but since everybody she knows says she's hilarious she figures what the hell. Cherry literally hits the road when she's almost run over by a convoy of Army trucks heading for a military base outside of Austin, Texas led by the smirkingly sinister Abby (Naveen Andrews) and Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) who are looking for canisters of a top secret biological weapon hidden at the base. In a movie like this it's almost a given that things go wrong. They do and the biological weapon is unleashed in the form of a sick-looking green mist that infects the townspeople, turning most of them into flesh-eating mutant zombies and leaving only a handful of desperate characters who must band together to stay alive during the hellish night.
Let me say right off the bat that if you've got a sensitive stomach and really don't enjoy the sight of bodies being Swiss-cheesed by thousands of rounds of machine-gun fire or pulled apart like fried chicken and devoured then this isn't the movie for you. Robert Rodriguez doesn't hold back on anything in this one and the sheer exhilaration of the violence in this movie might freak out some people. There's stabbings with hypodermic needles, zombies are doused with gasoline and incinerated, zombies are blown up, run over, decapitated and that's the light stuff. After seeing this movie my wife Patricia was speechless. Seriously. Depraved souls like myself who relish this sort of thing are going to have a great time.
You really have to throw out everything you thought you knew about movies to appreciate PLANET TERROR especially if you're someone who's never seen a movie that's less than ten years old. That's because in terms of acting, cinematography, special effects and story, PLANET TERROR scores as being a successful throwback to the 70's/80's style of movie. It looks, sounds and feels like somebody was rummaging around in a long forgotten storage room somewhere and found a lost John Carpenter flick from the 70's.
A lot of the fun comes from the eclectic cast, all of whom look as if they're having an absolute blast because they throw themselves in the ridiculously loopy story with gusto, energy and while they're all having fun with the material they respect it and make even the most bizarrely outrageous plots twists seem logical. Freddy Rodriguez is really good as the mysterious badass El Wray who apparently can do anything and do it with a James Coburn-ish cool I found tremendously appealing. And it adds to his mystique and badass status that El Wray is an average sized, average looking guy. He certainly doesn't look like a cat who can walk through a wall of zombies with nothing but a pair of switchblades and take 'em all out. Josh Brolin's performance was one that struck me as oddly familiar for some reason and I couldn't put my finger on it until the second time I watched the movie: he's doing Nick Nolte.
In appearance, voice and mannerisms he's a dead ringer for Nick Nolte in his younger days. Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey are a lot of fun as brothers. Biehn is the local law while Fahey runs the best BBQ shack in Texas. They brothers have spent years feuding over the family BBQ recipe but put their differences aside to fight zombies. There's some nice cameos and small but memorable supporting bits courtesy of Stacy Ferguson (of The Black Eyed Peas) Bruce Willis, Nicky Katt, Tom Savini, the Original El Mariachi himself: Carlos Gallardo, Q.T. and Robert Rodriguez's patch encrusted leather motorcycle jacket.
But the movie belongs to Rose McGowan and she knows it. From her opening scene to the closing she owns the movie and strides through it with a confidence and sly smile that seems to be communicating something private to those of us watching it. She's beautiful, funny, serious, droll and best of all; she plays Cherry Darling with respect. It can't be easy playing a zombie fighting go-go dancer with an M-16 for a leg but she plays it straight enough with just the right shadings of humor that we go along with it. I'd like to see Meryl Streep or Nicole Kidman try to play the same character half as well.
So should you see PLANET TERROR? Absolutely. I applaud Robert Rodriguez for saying "the hell with it" and just going all out crazy with this one. I mean, if you're gonna make a movie then dammit make a movie as if you'll never make another one in your life and that's how PLANET TERROR plays. It's a wonderful homage to a style of filmmaking we don't see anymore and it's done with such brilliant energy and imaginative power that I was truly sorry when it ended and I can't say that about too many movies I see these days.
But again I have to warn those of you who are sensitive to violence to steer clear of this one. Especially since there's a scene involving a little boy and a handgun. I realize that even though it's a movie there are those who take such scenes as that one very seriously and would rather not see scenes such as that one even though you don't actually see anything. And if you decide to rent both PLANET TERROR and "Death Proof" to watch on the same night (which is really the best way to see 'em) let me make a suggestion: Watch "Death Proof" first then PLANET TERROR.
Even though in the theaters they were shown in the opposite order trust me on this one. I think you'll enjoy it a lot more. Then go email Robert Rodriguez and demand a movie starring The Crazy Babysitting Twins.