The Cult Class Collection

Planet Terror (2007)

Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Rating: 1 2 3

Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling, with the infamous machine gun leg

Together with Quentin Tarantino's road crash of a road movie, Death Proof, Planet Terror formed half of the old school late night double feature B movie Grindhouse. After flopping big time in the States, Grindhouse was dismembered and now, like Basketcase severed from his big brother, Robert Rodriquez' zombie flick Planet Terror limps on alone.

Limp being the operative word for this tired film, which not only shambles through the standard zombie plot with an uncharacteristic remarkable lack of flair (effete English scientist Naveen Andrews has invented a biochemical gas that gets let loose – or something, I'm afraid I wasn't really paying attention, I was too busy watching the boils appear on Bruce Willis's face) but laces its fairly standard sexism with some slightly lame (ha ha) disablism.

Rose McGowan shimmies off her squeaky clean Charmed reputation as the likeable Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer who hooks up with mysterious Latino gunslinger El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) to battle the zombie hordes – who are about as threatening as a bunch of hells grannies. Yup, as usual, the living turn out to be far more dangerous than the dead: what with psycho, hypodermic wielding doctors (who knew Brand from The Goonies would turn out to be so scary?), crazy, machine-gun toting babysitters and trigger-happy cops, the poor, hapless, pus-filled elephant men that play the undead don't stand a prayer.

Okay, I'm not saying Planet Terror isn't entertaining: Cherry's machine gun leg is pretty effective (although hardly as shocking as it could have been, given that it's featured in the middle of the poster), there are some nice deaths and it's worth paying something to see Quentin Tarantino's balls rot off, but this is Robert Rodriguez, folks! Love him or hate him, you can't usually ignore him, but by his usual super-slick, sexy, sexist standards, Planet Terror (like its heroine) simply doesn't stand up.

Please note: you need more than grainy footage, cigarette burns and (the ultimate way of advancing a sluggish plot) a missing reel to make an old school exploitation movie, which is why, as the film reaches its surprisingly sentimental conclusion, I'm left disappointingly unmoved (although admittedly wondering why fully-clothed women can't fight zombies – even the token WPC strips down to her bra).

Perhaps I was expecting too much, but all in all, Planet Terror is simply not as funny as Shaun of the Dead, as insightful as Night of the Living Dead, cool as Land of the Dead, gross as Braindead or as plain scary as Dawn of the Dead. If you really want to see a modern, cheap ass zombie B-movie, rent Flight of the Living Dead. Although I'm still waiting for Machete, the Mexican shoot 'em up 'previewed' before the main feature – now that looks like nasty sexist crap I could really get worked up about…

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