A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Grindhouse: Planet Terror

March 9, 2011

Grindhouse: Planet Terror

This was entirely unintentional. We have accidentally committed ourselves to an all zombie weekend. We’re viewing the second Grindhouse movie tonight (slightly delayed by a pause yesterday for International Women’s Day) and starting tomorrow we are going to be watching a trilogy of zombie movies that we had planned for this weekend a year ago. We’ll probably tack another zombie movie on to Monday night as well if we’re not completely sick of them by then.

It amazes me what a contrast this movie is to Tarantino’s contribution to the Grindhouse project. Keep in mind that for the theatrical release these two films were cut down to about forty five minutes each and shown as a double feature movie (with the brilliant trailer for Machete sandwitched between the two of them.) We didn’t see them in the theater (which is a good thing because Amanda would have walked out after the first twenty minutes and we’d have missed all the fun of this portion) but I really can’t imagine what kind of experience that would have been. How do you go from the gritty, nasty, obscene Death Proof to the campy, hilarious, wonderful Planet Terror?

I just have to view this movie on its own and ignore Death Proof. I’m pretty sure that when we reviewed Sin City I talked about how much I love Robert Rodriguez as a director. Well, as a director, writer, editor and composer. More than any other living director I feel that his movies are entirely his vision because he is involved in every aspect of their creation. So this particular movie captures an odd feeling because it is simultaneously full of cool, quirky, awesome Rodriguez moments and cheesy self-aware moments of parody and homage. The brilliant thing is that this mix actually works. This movie is delightful cheese.

I’m going to skip summarizing the plot. It’s a riff on the typical zombie apocalypse flick. We have our collection of survivors, our nefarious bad guys, and hordes of sickening shambling dead. Our survivors are: a Texan barbecue chef, his brother the sheriff, a sexy go-go dancer, a mysterious drifter, a victimised wife, mother and anesthesiologist, and various other supporting cast. On the opposing team we have a corrupt army officer, an enigmatic mad scientist with a bizarre fetish for gonads, and a frightfully evil doctor. Absolutely everybody gets something fantastic to do. Every character, even the most minor little ones like the twins and the strip club owner, gets their moment to shine.

There are four primary leads, and they are two couples. There’s Freddy Rodriguez as Wray, the mysterious stranger with a past who ultimately becomes the leader of the survivors. He has a history with go-go dancer Cherry, played wonderfully by Rose McGowan, who has to ultimately find her inner strength to make it through this hellish experience. The other couple is the husband and wife team of Dr. Bill Block and Dr. Dakota Block. Bill is a jealous and controlling husband and Dakota is trying to find a way to leave him. When everything starts to fall apart Bill becomes progressively more sinister and evil and he lends the movie its most terrifying moments. It’s always a brave choice to play a completely evil character, and Josh Brolin Makes William Block subtly nasty from the very first moment he appears on screen.

I will say that the Dakota storyline is not my favorite. She has a truly horrifying plot thread that involves senseless and heartbreaking loss, some of the most painful to watch physical challenges and the only actual suspense in the movie. Whereas most of the movie is campy, gory fun her thread is much more psychological and frightening. It throws me a little out of the movie. But there’s a good payoff at the end even if everything doesn’t turn out perfectly okay for Dakota, and the acting job that Marley Shelton does with her character makes the whole thing worth going through for me.

What amazes me most of all though is that even when Robert Rodriguez is consciously trying to make a bad and cheesy movie he can’t help doing it well. There are so many cool little directorial flourishes – bits of good film making that he just can’t seem to avoid. The action is over the top, wonderful and completely filled with joy. From Wray fighting his way through the hallways of a zombie infested hospital to rescue his ex girlfriend to the delirious final gunfight with hundreds of zombies and Cherry’s “upgraded” leg. The gore is stupendous. The violence is ridiculous. Several times I simply found myself staring at the screen slack jawed unable to believe that some of these moments are actually committed to film. Like the shot between the hairy thighs of a potential rapist as his putrefying genitals drip down between his legs. It makes me want to get a copy of The Toxic Avenger, which had its heart in much the same place, although it didn’t have the star power or budget.

One last thought: if you watch this sick, disgusting, and completely enjoyable movie and like what you’ve seen then I highly recommend that you run out and buy House of the Dead: Overkill for your Wii. Because it’s like playing a version of this movie as a light-gun shooter. You will laugh uproariously and enjoy yourself for hours on end. You can thank me later.

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March 9, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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