Man, it has been a while since I watched part of the Grindhouse double feature. As a matter of fact, it has been just over two years since I watched Death Proof. So when Grindhouse came out, this was the part of the double feature I was most interested in seeing, because I do enjoy a good zombie movie. So like I said back then, my friends and I went to go see this when it first came out and I was glad that this was the first movie shown. So here is today’s movie, Planet Terror.
The plot: Cherry Darling is a go-go dancer who gets tired of dancing and quits her job. As she is walking home, she is nearly run over by a military convoy and injures her leg falling into some garbage. The military convoy, led by Lt. Muldoon and a chemical engineer named Abby, reach a warehouse, where they are meeting with some of Abby’s men to pick up a chemical called DC2. When Abby learns that his test subjects have escaped, he has the leader castrated and killed when a beeping sound is heard, and all of the gas canisters that the military men are breathing from have gone empty. Muldoon and the soldiers end up in a firefight with Muldoon and his men over the gas but as Muldoon, whose face is starting to deform, approaches Abby, Abby shoots the canisters of gas, releasing it into the air, and is able to escape as Muldoon and the soldiers step into the gas cloud, but as he drives away, one of the scientists leaps onto his car and tries to attack him, having been turned into a deformed psychopath by the gas. Meanwhile, Dr. Dakota Block is speaking with her babysitter on the phone, while texting her lover, Tammy, to pick up her son while she is at work with her husband, Dr. William Block, so they can run away together. Cherry walks to the Bone Shack, a BBQ restaurant owned by J.T. Hague, where she is soon joined by her ex-boyfriend El Wray, who offers her a lift after they talk for a while. At the hospital, Block is examining a patient with a bite on his arm when they notice lesions on his tongue and arm. He tells the patient they are going to have to amputate the arm so that the infection doesn’t spread to his chest, then calls for Dakota, who is the anesthesiologist, to knock the patient out. Tammy’s car breaks down and as she tries to flag down passing cars, she is attacked and killed by some deformed people. Wray and Cherry pass them but think it is people picking up a dead deer. When Wray swerves to avoid hitting someone in the road, his truck ends up flipping over and someone grabs Cherry and drags her from the truck. Wray grabs a rifle from his car and follows after them, finding them just as the two people rip off Cherry’s leg, but even though he shoots them, they don’t die and instead run off into the woods. Cherry is taken to the hospital and while Wray talks with Block, Sheriff Hague and his deputies arrive to question Wray. As Hague speaks with Wray, Wray notices several people being admitted into the hospital with lesions on their face and asks if they can go somewhere else to talk and Hague arrests him and takes him to the sheriff’s station. Back at the hospital, Block sees some more bodies being brought in and calls Dakota down to show her the body of Tammy. Getting her alone, he confronts her about Tammy, using the anesthetic on her hands so he can grab her phone and confirm she was in contact with her, but before he can do anything else, he is called away so he locks her inside an office. Block is taken to where the bodies where and finds that they have disappeared and as more patients are being admitted with lesions on their bodies, he decides to get out of there but goes to deal with Dakota before he leaves. Making his way back to the room, he is attacked by the man whose arm was amputated and the man pulls off some of his mutated flesh and smears it all over Block’s face, infecting him. Back at the sheriff’s station, one of his deputies comes in saying a man bit off his finger and when the sheriff and the other deputy go check, the second deputy is killed by some of the deformed people. Wray manages to free himself from his restraints to help the sheriff, then leaves to go get Cherry and the sheriff and the rest of his deputies go with him in his truck, calling in some other deputies and friends and saying to meet at his brother’s place. Back at the hospital, Dakota jumps out of the window and makes her way to the car, breaking her wrist in the process of getting the door open, and manages to drive off just as Wray and the police arrive. Wray heads inside the hospital to get Cherry, who is depressed over what happens to her leg, and he quickly grabs the leg off a table and jams it into the peg for a prosthetic, allowing her to walk out of there and they head to J.T.’s. Dakota gets to her house and after kicking the babysitters out, she grabs her son Tony and gets in the car, where they are attacked by the babysitters before she is able to escape. At J.T.’s, Hague deputizes everyone and gives them a gun, except for Wray as there are past issues between them, then heads inside where he finds J.T. passed out on the floor, with the bodies of two mutated people on the other side of the counter. Dakota and Tony arrive at her father’s house and she tells Tony to grab the revolver in the glove compartment and shoot anyone that comes near the car, including his father, but as she heads to the house, Tony accidentally shoots himself in the face. A horrified Dakota goes back to the car only to be attacked by Block but she manages to get free and grabs Tony’s body and runs to the house, where her father quickly ushers her inside. Back at J.T.’s, Wray and Cherry talk and Wray has search the jacket she took from him, where she finds an engagement ring and the two end up having sex when the film breaks. When the movie picks back up, J.T.’s place is on fire and Hague has been shot in the neck. He apologizes to Wray for how he treated him and hands him a gun. Wray covers Cherry as she goes to get his truck, then leads the survivors out of there using his truck and some of J.T.’s vehicles to escape in. When they come across a horde of mutants on the bridge out of town, they get ready to make their last stand but are saved by Muldoon and his soldiers, who knock Wray out and take the others prisoners. When Wray comes too, he finds himself in a cell with everyone else, including Abby, who recognizes Wray. Abby informs Wray about Muldoon and the others stealing the chemical because they need a constant dose of it to stay normal otherwise they mutate and that a small percentage of people are immune to the chemical, which he hopes to be able to find a cure. Two soldiers come down and order Cherry and Dakota to come with them and Wray tries to stop them but is beaten by the guards and thrown back in the cell. Cherry and Dakota are taken to a separate cell, where two soldiers plan to rape them. Meanwhile, J.T. and Wray wrestle with their guards and Wray kills them but not before J.T. is shot in the stomach. Wray and Abby go to confront Muldoon, who explains that he had killed Osama Bin Laden but his reward was to have him and his team infected with the gas and as his tank runs out and he starts to mutate, Wray and Abby kill him. Meanwhile, Cherry is forced to dance for the two soldiers but she strikes one of them across the face with her wooden leg then jabs him in the eye with the broken stump. When the second soldier drags her away, the first one gets up and moves towards her when the mutation causes his penis to start falling apart. Dakota regains the use of her hands and uses a syringe gun to shoot the second soldier in the leg and the first in his other eye. Wray and Abby show up and Wray gives Cherry a modified M4 with a grenade launcher attachment to use as a new leg, which she uses to kill her attempted rapist and some of the other soldiers. Heading back to the cell, they arm everyone and prepare to lead them out but J.T. and Hague stay behind, as they are too wounded to move, and Wray gives them a detonator to blow the place up. Outside, the prepare to make their way to some nearby helicopters but Abby ends up getting shot in the head. When J.T. and Hague hit the detonator, Wray has Cherry go out to deal with the soldiers, then he leads the others towards the helicopters but ends up getting shot. As the survivors get on board one of the helicopters, Dakota goes to check on the second one and finds Block there but her father shows up and kills him and they head back to the first helicopter. Cherry goes to see Wray, who says she has to save herself and their child, indicating that he got her pregnant when they had sex and as the helicopter leaves, using the rotors to mow down the infected, Dakota yells out for Cherry and lowers a rope to her. Some time later, Cherry is leading some more survivors to the area that they have made for themselves, using a prosthetic mini-gun on her leg to take out a zombie that attacks them. As she looks at the temple, she thinks of Wray and wishes that he could see their daughter, who she carries with her.
Planet Terror met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics praised the movies visual aspects in recreating the exploitation schlock films of the 70’s. Robert Rodriguez had apparently come up with the concept for years ago while working on The Faculty, as he felt that zombie movies were dead and due for a comeback, but other projects kept him from working on it. When zombie movies did indeed make a comeback, Rodriguez revisited the idea for the movie when he partnered with Quentin Tarantino on Grindhouse.
While everyone loves the trailers out of Grindhouse, this was definitely my favorite one of the two feature films. The acting was pretty good, which I know is funny to say because this is supposed to be a “low budget” movie, but it really was. Rose McGowan did a good job as the female lead, though I was rather indifferent towards Freddy Rodriguez (Wray). I did like Jeff Fahey (J.T.), Josh Brolin (Block), Marley Shelton (Dakota), and Naveen Andrews (Abby) in their roles. The story was pretty good and really reminded me of some of the late 80’s/early 90’s zombie movies, primarily Zombi 3. I also loved the whole “missing reel” part, as it cuts out during a sex scene and when you come back, the place is on fire and you are left wondering what the hell happened here. The special effects were very good and so off the wall that it helped with making the movie more entertaining. A fun throw back movie that is worth watching, if you can handle all the blood and gore that is.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5