Halloween Endurance Test: Planet Terror (2007)

Any director who casts his own son (Rebel Rodrigeuz) as a suicide, and his nieces (Electra Avellan and Elise Avellan) as “the crazy babysitting twins” is a bad-ass. Robert Rodriguez and his Planet Terror sort of just rolls over everything in from of it. The original trailer he made (Machete) to precede his film in the Grindhouse package was so good he had to make it into a film! Planet Terror’s soundtrack is so good; a brilliant mix of From Dust ’til Dawn meets John Carpenter circa 1980 tunes that you’ll end up having to buy it too. Did I mention the knives specially made for castration? An unadvertised cameo by Bruce Willis? Star Rose McGowen singing a lounge cover of the Dead Kennedys “Too Drunk to Fuck?” There’s enough to talk about here to last all month…

This is what the Day of the Dead remake should’ve bee. Less (reserve) army soldiers running around a hospital and more depressed strippers go-go dancers slumming in Bar BQ pits. The go-go dancer in question is Cherry Darling (Rose McGowen), a girl on a quest to turn her life around when a military experiment goes awry (as they always do), and the whole world changes.

Rodriguez knows these exploitation films too well, and uses special effect hero Greg Nicotero superbly. They know blood is passe; failing to freak anyone out. Boils and lesions, however, are disgusting. So you use the boils to sell the squirting blood.

Also, you kill off Fergie real quick!

Also, you cast ex-special effect hero/current Sex Machine Tom Savini in your film. If anyone knows zombies, Tom does. He literally wrote the book on them with his effects in Dawn of the Dead! (He would’ve worked on Night of the Living Dead, but was drafted instead.) Tom rocks a pistol-powered uppercut here, just to remind everyone of who he is, and what he can do.

Newly found tension is mined when Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton) tries to operate her car with two over-anesthetized arms amid the zombie outbreak. Nicely supplanting the tired and old “car won’t start/Oops, I dropped the keys” horror convention.

Planer Terror succeeds where all the other grindhouse and modern faux-grindhouse films fails because it jams as many piss-poor exploitation plots in and just runs them all together. The El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) “returning maligned avenger” plot. The “evil doctor(s) (Josh Brolin and the aforementioned Marley Shelton)” plot. The “feuding brothers (Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn)” plot.

Strangely, Rodriguez completely misses the chance to shoehorn some Italian-style “eye”-ploitation into the film.

But he redeems himself by having Cherry Darling upgrade her amputated limb with a machine gun.

Now all these plots would usually stretched-out to cover just one. individual film. But here the overarching “military virus” plot is used to cover all of them. All these sub-plots converging together to take on the aforementioned Lt. Muldoon.

Lt. Muldoon is a disgruntled soldier who killed bin Laden and was given a deadly, infectious disease by our government for a reward. So Muldoon decideds tp infect a Texas town in order to pressure the military into fast-tracking a cure before Texas gets big(ger), bulbous-boy Akira-style.

No doubt due to the walk-on nature of his role, Willis reportedly was not supposed to be in the film, Muldoon dies quickly. He bubbles up, takes a couple of rounds, presumably explodes. Leaving an army base of zombies to be taken care of our rag-tag team of heros.

Where we learn, for the first time in history, machine guns are effective against zombies! Leaving us with a total (original) Day of the Dead ending, with our heros trapped, backs against the coast, in Mexico; waiting for civilization to return.

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