It does not matter if you have seen every single episode of Rose McGowan’s tint on Charmed, the way she practically transcends the screen and transforms herself into the character of Cherry Darling in Planet Terror will literally have you convinced that she’s literally a former stripper with a grenade launching machine gun for a prosthetic leg. If that was not cool enough, she also has an entire town full of zombies (and some villainy militia folks) to cut down. If you have been looking for a good action movie that does not require much thinking, then Planet Terror is perfect for you.
What is Planet Terror?
Planet Terror is the first film in the Grindhouse back to back feature. It is directed by Robert Rodriguez and has a pretty impressive cast (the lineup includes Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, Jeff Fahey, and Freddy Rodriguez). The movie follows the story of Cherry Darling, a young woman with big dreams but ended up as a stripper. When her town is exposed to a gas that turns people into zombies, she gets caught by some of the “sickos” and her leg gets torn off. The leg is later replaced by the iconic gun which she uses not only as a prosthetic but also as a weapon.
As Planet Terror is a Grindhouse film, it is not shot or directed like a regular film. For one, some of the acting is deliberately done in a very campy or even amateurish manner, some of the camera work (like some awkward points where the camera just suddenly zooms in). This is not a mistake on the part of the actors or the director, but an intentional act in order to make the film feel like it really a ‘grindhouse’ kind of movie. The same applies to the visual effects, lighting, and props. Ironically, making a film deliberately look cheap but still look good takes a lot of effort and thus the folks behind the scenes had to do some serious work for this movie.
Another Grindhouse-esque effect is that the cut of the film is done in such a way that it looks like it has been spliced and edited by those working on the theater’s projection reel. Some scenes look extra grainy like part of the film was not taken care of, and there’s even an entire portion of the movie that feels missing thanks to a ‘misplaced’ reel. The cool bit out this is that Rodriguez makes these alterations in a way that actually helps the story. The scratches and fade outs help provide emphasis or accentuate a scene, while the portions that get cut are the slower and tedious bits that allow the movie to skip ahead to where the action is.
Gotta Have Zombies
When Planet Terror was made, the rise of zombie themed content in media was still starting (and still a long way from its exponential growth after The Walking Dead TV series). But Robert Rodriguez had already known that the undead were due for a comeback for a long time. The basis for PT’s script started as a very small and quick 30 page draft long before he and Quentin Tarantino decided to create grindhouse.
In this film, the zombies are transformed from normal human beings after being exposed to a gas –which makes it one of the most dangerous zombie creating vectors in media. But at the same time, there are a lot of people who are naturally immune to it (which is why the military detained survivors). While the film ends with the protagonists able to blow up all the zombies and presumably all of the gas, it is revealed in the epilogue that a zombie apocalypse does happen and the survivors are living peacefully in an isolated island.
Great Action Sequences
One of the best things about having a heroine with a gun for a leg is that you can get some truly gratuitous action scenes –and this movie makes the most of it. From the moment that Cherry straps on the leg, you know that there will be tons of zombie heads getting popped or blown up. There’s a lot of suspended disbelief to be had with the film, but considering that this is a Grindhouse movie, that’s already to be expected. The important part is that the movie delivers –there’s a good bit of gun on zombie violence that is just so satisfying to see unfold and will have you wanting to see more.