Planet Terror (2007)
Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Screened: Wednesday 7th November, 2007
Originally the latter half of Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s tribute to the B-movies of their youth, Planet Terror opened the Fanomenon section of the Leeds International Film Festival on Wednesday. (This reviewer got a day’s advantage over the national press, but then lost it by not bothering to write his review until today. Oh well.) Rodriguez’s take-off of the low-budget zombie film gets a separate release without the re-editing and extended scenes given to Tarantino’s Death Proof, and comes across as a great film in its own right.
Sleazy, violent and throughly disreputable, Planet Terror is exhilarating in its schlocky aesthetic and sheer exuberance. With its splattery violence, wisecracking heroes and authentically scratched film stock, it works as both a send-up and celebration of ridiculous action films that appeal to the sugar-addled teenage boy in everyone.
Importantly, it’s also very funny with it. Every cast member plays it straight, which only adds to the humour. Consider Lost’s Naveen Andrews, playing a corrupt scientist with the unfortunate habit of stealing the testicles of any man who crosses him. Or Jeff Fahey’s diner owner J.T., convinced that his own blood makes the perfect ingredient in barbecue sauce. The fact that these performances are delivered so well makes the bizarre and twisted humour the icing on the cake.
Rose McGowan gives a storming performance as Cherry Darling, the femme fatale who loses a leg in the zombie attack, but with the infamous machine-gun prosthetic comes into her own and helps save the survivors. Paired with her is Freddy Rodriguez as El Wray, the leather-jacketed, chain-smoking action hero of film cliche (he has a hilarious sequence with a motorbike which had the audience in stitches at this screening). The only false note in casting is Quentin Tarantino playing a disgusting character who meets an equally disgusting end. QT is really not such a good actor, and his penchant for playing psycho rapists (see also: From Dusk Till Dawn) is something that should really be sorted out in therapy. That aside, Planet Terror zips along in true Rodriquez style, gory and tasteless but very good fun while it lasts.