Grindhouse Pt. 1 -- Planet Terror

Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodríguez Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

When Grindhouse was released way back in 2007 I was intrigued but failed to catch it in theatres.  It turned out not being overtly popular and had a fairly short run.  Plus I always have trouble gearing myself up to sit in a movie theatre for over 3 hours to watch a film.

When it came out on video I was incensed at their decision to release it as two separate films, without the fake trailers everybody raved about (you can see them on youtube, however.)  Lousy.  That’s a George Lucas-type move.

Finally four years later Drew finally talked me in to watching his copies of the films.  Free is free, after all, and I was still intrigued to see how the films stacked up to recent exploitation films, as well as where they fit in to the directors oeuvre.

First up, Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”.

“Planet Terror” starts out with a stripper, severed testicles, a gun fight and the release of an experimental bio-weapon in to the atmosphere.  I can’t dream of a better way to start a film.  The bio-weapon starts mutating people, making them in to flesh-hungry zombie-like creatures.

By and large that’s the plot of the film.  There’s a bit of an explanation near the end of the film as to why Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) released the gas on an unsuspecting population, but plot is about the least important aspect of this film.  This is all about visuals and violence.

The film is shot to look like a 70s film, but still taking place in the present day.  The color of the film, in particular, goes a long was to giving it a retro feel.  Lots and lots of orange and green and brown, with dimly lit set pieces.  In post-production the film was given various effects to make it look old.  It’s very grainy, with 35mm scratches and lots of jumps to indicate missing lengths of film.  In one particularly funny gag, the film suddenly stops, replaced by a few frames of apology from management.  Seems as though they have lost an entire reel of film!  When the film start back up you have lost an entire 10-15 minutes of film, and you are thrust back in to the action with little explanation as to what’s going on.

The film relies on a lot of over-the-top violence to both entertain and humor the viewer.  Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) has a leg chewed off by a zombie and replaces it first with a table leg and later with a machine gun.  Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn) gets his neck nearly torn in two, and they patch him up with a neck tourniquet.  Numb hands, severed limbs, pulsating face pustules and gore geysers galore, all play a part in the film.  Some of it is retread from the films it’s paying homage to, but there is enough inventive here to keep the viewer on board throughout.  In the end, this is exactly what I would expect, and what I wanted, from a film with “grindhouse” roots.

Written by Ryan Venson