Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Robert Rodriguez confuses me.
El Mariachi blew me away with its crackling, low budget ingenuity and I had high hopes for whatever Rodriguez would cook up next. What came after however, tended to disappoint, more than anything else.
Desperado just seemed to be El Mariachi on a Hollywood budget, Four Rooms (the anthology he contributed to alongside Quentin Tarantino, Alexandre Rockwell, and Allison Anders) seemed more self-indulgent than actually funny, The Faculty lacked the visual frenzy of Rodriguez’s audacious debut, Once Upon A Time in Mexico didn’t really come alive for me, and Sin City was little more than an interesting ultra-violent visual experience.
Then there are his kiddie movies (the Spy Kids flicks and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl) which were clearly not made with me in mind.
Perhaps the only post-El Mariachi film Rodriguez helmed which I actually enjoyed was his team-up with Tarantino, From Dusk Till Dawn, a vampire movie which reveled in its B-movie roots.
The only one, that is, till I got to visit Planet Terror.

Originally one half of Grindhouse, Planet Terror is Rodriguez’s crazy-a$$ contribution to the raging subgenre of zombie cinema.
Here, a chemical is unleashed on an unsuspecting Texan populace, which mutates its victims into pustule-ridden monstrosities hungry for flesh. As per the template of your average zombie mash, Planet Terror follows a number of characters who eventually converge to become one ragtag group of survivors that must navigate the chaos of a world that’s suddenly gone Romero.
Among the motley crew are go-go dancer/aspiring stand-up comic Cherry Darling (Scream’s Rose McGowan), anesthesiologist Dakota Block (Marley Shelton, from Pleasantville and Sin City), and the mysterious El Wray (Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez). Along for the ride are biochemist/testicle fetishist Abby (Lost’s Naveen Andrews), would-be barbecue king J.T. (Jeff Fahey, set to appear in Season 4 of Lost), J.T.’s brother Sheriff Hague (former James Cameron collaborator Michael Biehn), and Deputy Tolo (make-up effects maestro Tom Savini). Oh, and a certain Earl McGraw (Michael Parks), who some of you may have seen in Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga as well as Death Proof. (Earl happens to be Dakota’s pop, and Dakota is also actually seen briefly in Death Proof.)

Populating this wild ride with these misfits, Rodriguez delivers a solid exercise in fun, B-movie schlock; this is the sort of tongue-in-cheek insanity that some low budget horror films can only hope to attain. Utilizing a good mix of old school practical make-up effects, digital effects, and painfully obvious dummies, Rodriguez showers the audience with over-the-top gore as the infected transform into oozing grotesqueries ready to chow down on the nearest live human being, while spurting copious amounts of the red stuff as they’re being gunned down, or run over, or chopper rotored, by El Wray and company.

Planet Terror is a runny, rowdy, four-cheese pizza without the dough. It’s messy and messed-up and one of the most lunatic popcorn flicks ever made for the midnight movie crowd.
At long last, Rodriguez is back in the game, and I am so looking forward to his remake of Barbarella, where he re-teams with McGowan (who has since become his real-life Cherry Darling).
Bring it on, baby!

Parting shot: Notable musical moments: Rose McGowan’s cover of “You Belong To Me,” which is played over the end title crawl, and, though it’s not my favourite cover of theirs, Nouvelle Vague’s “Too Drunk To F*ck,” which plays as QT tries to do something nasty to Cherry, only to have something really nasty happen to him…

Parting shot 2: Reportedly, Rodriguez is also set to turn his faux trailer from Grindhouse, Machete—which plays right before Planet Terror starts—into a full-fledged straight-to-DVD film.
More schlocky insanity! With Cheech Marin as a gun-toting priest! Brilliant!

(Planet Terror OS courtesy of; images courtesy of; Robert Rodriguez on-set image courtesy of

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