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Planet Terror

A movie directed by Robert Rodriguez

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Just add blood (and gore, girls, guns, and guts) ... for a fine Texas barbecue sauce

  • Mar 21, 2008
Gore, girls, guns, zombifying gases and guts-- I guess that's all it takes to make a moderately entertaining and occasionally visually stunning flick. Of course, it won't do much for your mind -- unlike some grindhouse flicks that play with intriguing subtexts underneath all of the shock-inducing and exploitation schlock -- Robert Rodriguez just wants to ramp up the insanity step by step, piling up absurd but effective and increasingly over the top gory elements until, after the climax, it all ends on a strangely sentimental note.

The plot, for what its worth, is cobbled together to create maximum opportunity for thrills and mayhem. There's a stripper who gets her leg bitten off, only to have it replaced by a prosthetic machine gun/rocket launcher. Her lover is a tow truck driver who is really the incognito of a superheroic and psychotic gun-wielder. There's an anaesthesiologist mother on a rampage with hypodermic needles when her husband tried to kill her after her lesbian lover shows up half eaten in the hospital. Throw in a Texas barbecue king, a jealous sheriff and a bunch of less than fully competent deputies, two crazy Latina twins, a cowardly stripclub owner, into a small town where a military operation gone bad has released a poisonous gas that turns men and women into highly infectious flesh-crazed rot-faced cannibals. What have you got? Mayhem, exploding bodies, exploding cars, zombie action, leering men, attractive women alternating between nails tough and sexy.

The thing I liked least in both Grindhouse films were the cameos by filmmakers. In Death Proof, both Tarantino and Eli Roth show up and Roth plays (badly, since he can't really act, and it does him a favor to assume he is trying to act because if he is really like the character he plays on screen, he's a real ... well, you know) an extremely despicable and loathsome misogynist; in this one Tarantino himself plays (once again, badly -- while he is a very competent director who knows how to get intriguing performances from his actors I've never seen any indications that Tarantino himself can do more than bluster on screen, but I'm pretty sure that is acting because from what I know of him he strikes me as very likely more decent and certainly more self-aware than the characters he plays on screen) another despicable character with a gun, prepared to use it to enable himself to act out the macho woman-hating fantasies that Roth's character talked about. He played a similarly psychotic character in that roadhouse vampire flick that he and Rodriguez made (From Dusk Till Dawn) -- I'm not quite sure why he likes to use himself as a mouthpiece for the most vile and disgusting references to women that appear in their films. Is it ironic self-critique or is it narcissistic opportunism: the chance to play out a fantasy of perversion under the guise of ironic self-critique? I can't tell.

Anyhow, once again, Rodriguez shows himself to be a visually inventive genius who knows how to make the most of a moderate budget but is once again apparently wasting his talents on entertaining but ultimately ephemeral material. I guess this is what he likes -- so all power to him. For my part, with the possible exception of Spy Kids (which is one of the better and more engaging children's action films, in part because the Latino sensibility that pervades it brings a freshness to what could have been a pretty generic plot) and maybe Sin City (in which the original material has a haunting texture that he is able to bring to life), I don't think he has lived up to his promise and potential (unlike Tarantino, whose films bring both intelligence, and a wide understanding of cinema culture, to his grindhouse sensibility). Here's hoping Rodriguez's next film will be both visually exciting and at least somewhat stimulating for the brain (and stimulating in some other way than like the green gas that induces a zombified hunger for blood and mindless thrills).

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More Planet Terror reviews
Quick Tip by . April 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
While I preferred the back-to-back presentation of "Grindhouse" (complete with the made-up trailers) Robert Rodriguez's highly entertaining homage to B-movies, exploitation films, horror-zombie movies and 'grindhouse" can stand on its own. Arguably more fun than Tarantino's "Death Proof".      The film that gave "Machete" the opening to become a full-feature film! 4 Out of 5 Stars
review by . August 27, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
It's "Night of the Living Dead" meets "Showgirls" meets "Smokey and the Bandit"...!    When toxic biochemicals are released into the Earth's atmosphere, transforming innocent bystanders into flesh-guzzling zombies, mankind's only hope lies with former go-go dancer Cherry (Rose McGowan), who wears a machine-gun in place of an amputated of her many "useless talents"...    That's the bizarre plot of PLANET TERROR, writer/director Robert Rodriguez's …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #28
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (, and am co-director of … more
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About this movie


Director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) is back with a rip-roaring, zombie-infested rollercoaster of a movie that "sure as hell keeps you hanging on for the ride" (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, and an all-star cast fight for their lives in the ultimate showdown between an army of flesh-eating mutants and a motley group of rag-tag survivors. Featuring one of the most memorable screen heroines ever and the now-legendary mock Machete trailer, "Planet Terror is as total blast - funny, gory and over the top" (Christy Lemire, Associated Press).
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