Well, that movie was awesome. I don’t think I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed watching an action film like that in a long time. I went into Planet Terror with low expectations as I found its counterpart, Death Proof, rather boring at times and I’d heard that was the “best” part of Grindhouse, so my anticipation to see Planet Terror wasn’t exactly high. Still, I’m glad I watched it as I found it to be the more entertaining half to the Grindhouse epic.
When a town becomes infected with a deadly virus, turning almost everyone into flesh eating zombies, a small group of survivors must fight their way through the madness. Right when the going gets tough, the group is captured by a gang of rogue military men who unleashed the virus on the town and they must fight to get out of the town in one of the few methods of transport left: military helicopters stationed at the very military base they’re being held captive on.
I don’t even know where to begin with this movie, really. The film gets going immediately with the introduction to our characters and a soundtrack that is reminiscent of the score Rodriguez did for the excellent Sin City. Within twenty minutes the film we’re already getting into zombie-style action and from there it doesn’t let up. For the first time since I was a kid, I actually had to pause the movie while I ate, as between all the popping puss bubbles on the victims faces and the flying gore, I wasn’t sure how well the two would mix. A very strange feeling, but it does point out how grotesque the film can get and right after I finished eating I was right back at it and the film only got better.
Without a doubt the special effects done with the film were one of the more impressive things in the film. All of the squibs that must have gone off during the hospital escape with El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) and the showdown at the Bone Shack is mindboggling to think about and the effect done with Cherry’s gun-leg actually had me scratching my head (until I watched the “10-Minute Film School” on the second disc, then I smacked myself for not even thinking of that).
Also lending itself to the film remarkably well was the “aged” reel affect that we saw in the first house of Grindhouse (that first half being Death Proof, of course). While Death Proof lost the look in the last part of the film, Planet Terror keeps it going throughout and the missing frames and excessive discoloration really lends itself much better to a movie about zombies than one about a guy in car killing people. By now everyone knows of the “missing reel” segment (it isn’t included on this DVD release, sorry) that takes place between the Cherry/El Wray scene and immediately cuts to a burning Bone Shack. Having not seen this film prior, I had no idea it was coming and it just really summed up the entire feeling of this movie. It has to be seen to be fully understood…the film is just a ton of gory fun to watch.
Actors played a huge part in making the film enjoyable, with Freddy Rodriguez and Rose McGowan being the standouts, likely because they have the most screen time. I have to say that Josh Brolin as Dr. William Block was quite fantastic as well, especially at the end when he quotes his son from earlier in the movie when he, in full zombie mode, approaches his wife and says “I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge.” That is one of the best lines in the whole film and the delivery on it is nothing short of excellent. On top of that we get a small role from Naveen Andrews (of Lost fame) who plays a short but sweet role as Abby. I won’t ruin anymore of the story for you, as a lot of it is just fun to experience for yourself, but the film is definitely worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the genre or a fan of Rodriguez’s past work. On top of the actors is the superb score. As I said before, it sounds a bit like Sin City but that’s not a fault, it’s a compliment. Rodriguez and Graeme Revell do an excellent job throughout the film and it really adds a proper ambience to the setting of it all.
Overall, to me, Planet Terror is the better half of Grindhouse. It’s just a much more entertaining film overall, but maybe that’s because I’m a bigger fan of Rodriguez’s work than I am of Tarantino’s. Not to fault Death Proof too much, but there are too many awesome visual effects and the dialogue in Planet Terror just meshes with the whole Grindhouse feeling better. Now we just need a Grindhouse prequel where Bruce Willis’s (Planet Terror) character meets up with Kurt Russel’s (Grindhouse), because, as evidenced by the Jungle Julia reference in Planet Terror, we know the two worlds are connected.
Oh and the Machete trailer? Completely bad ass. Highly Recommended.
Presented in a similar packaging to Death Proof, Planet Terror arrives in a two-disc amaray case with a cardboard slip cover mirroring the same art beneath and below it. Included inside is a $5 off coupon for Death Proof and, of course, the two discs which share the same art on both discs. Menus for the DVD are easy to navigate and resemble the box art.
Starting off we have a solid audio and visual presentation. The added “Grindhouse” effects to the film never hinder the transfer in any way and the film looks clean and beautiful throughout. There’s a comparison of the regular film footage shot and what it looks like without the effects on the second disc and it’s surprising how much the film benefits from the deterioration. The English 5.1 Dolby Surround audio, complete with hisses, pops and cracks, sounds great and makes use of the surrounds on more than one occasion. The bass isn’t quite as booming as some of Death Proof, but it’s still satisfactory. A Spanish 5.1 track is included as well.
Starting off on the first disc are the extras. Of course the major extra here is the “Extended and Unrated” aspect, but this being the only version I’ve seen I had no idea what was new and what wasn’t. Rodriguez explains some of the new scenes on his excellent commentary, which is insightful and informative as always. The extras on his DVDs are always interesting and this commentary does a superb job balancing the fun of the film with the technical aspects. The alternate audio track on this release is an “audience reaction track”, which is exactly as it sounds. It’s cool to watch the movie with this on for awhile, but it’s really not something you’ll ever watch once (or even once all the way through). A international trailer and poster gallery is included on the first disc as well.
Moving onto disc two we have a nice little collection of quick-and-to-the-point special features. Rodriguez’s “10-Minute Film School” is here and this is where you’ll find the brunt of the entertainment on this disc. Rodriguez reveals all the big secrets of the film here, including the aforementioned machine gun leg. He also goes into detail about some of the other effects he did to the film when some of the stunts didn’t exactly work visually when he got back into the editing room.
Next up is a series of extras, all short and to the-point, that cover the production of Planet Terror. First up are the “Badass Babes and Tough Guys of Planet Terror.” This extra is split into two, one focusing on the women and the other on the boys. Everyone has nothing but positive things to say about one another and we even get some rehearsal footage in here as well.
“Casting Rebel” focuses on director Robert Rodriguez’s son, Rebel. Rodriguez goes into detail about how much fun it was to work with his son on the film and even goes on to say that he hasn’t told Rebel yet that he actually dies in Planet Terror. Particularly funny is the part where he says he imagines the day he tells him that he dies in the film is same day he tells them the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
“Sickos, Bullets, and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror” does just what it says and explores the trials that the film had in the stunt department. Having to keep things on budget so Quentin could direct his half of Grindhouse, Rodriguez had to improvise a lot of the time to get what he wanted. As evidenced by the final product, the man did a hell of a job.
“The Friend, The Doctor and The Real Estate Agent” shows just how close knit Rodriguez keeps the casting in his films. We hear from those he cast in the film and how nervous some of them (Felix Sabates as Dr. Felix in particular) were to be in a film.
Overall Planet Terror is a great film and a superb DVD release. While Rodriguez does mention that a two-disc edition of Grindhouse is in the works, I’ve no doubt that these two-disc releases of Death Proof and Planet Terror will be the “ultimate” editions. As such, they both come Highly Recommended.
“I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge.” Classic.
Planet Terror: Extended and Unrated arrives on DVD on October 16th.