When it came to the two Grindhouse films, Rodriguez made the clever choice and consequently the superior film. He realised that the best aspect of the B-movie, Grindhouse films was the gore, scantily clad woman, poor to hammy acting and ridiculous story. It had to be horror but in a “ram-it-down-your-throat” kind of way. While Tarantino had some of that, it always felt like a Tarantino film in a Grindhouse style rather than a dedication to Grindhouse. The biggest difference? – Zombies!
It’s simple really. Zombies offer you gore, blood, horror (but not the tense, creepy kind) and humour, either deliberate or as a by-product of the film. Zombie’s offered Rodriguez the chance to have a host of different characters which he could throw together, some with a shared past and others just along for the ride.
The best thing about the host of characters? – the actors he managed to get involved. Everyone from Bruce Willis to Josh Brolin, Lost’s Naveen Andrews to (hugely under-used and under-rated) Michael Biehn! Throw in cameos from Quentin Tarantino and a great, silly performance from Rose McGowan and you end up with a film acted and pitched perfectly. Rodriguez realises that what he’s about to direct is going to be silly, ridiculous and most of all, fun. Instead of putting a cap on that, he ramps it up further, playing everything as extreme as it can be, from gore, swearing, action and cheesy lines.
Just like Death Proof, Planet Terror is a loving re-creation of the Grindhouse style of film and because of that it adds all the little tweaks and touches that Tarantino did with Death Proof but rather than just do this for half of the film, goes all out. In fact as well as damaged film, poor cuts and strange continuity, Rodriguez goes a step further. I won’t ruin the “surprise” here but it’s a gutsy move that would only really work with a film like Planet Terror.
Even though it keeps the Grindhouse style, the action feels like blockbuster quality. The explosive confrontations with the “mutants” and the gun-toting, action filled finale are all imagined perfectly and bring the film to a good, silly climax. I don’t know any other film that would get away with having an amputee’s missing leg replaced with a machine gun, Tarantino’s manhood melting away in front of his eyes and the terrorist from Lost carrying around a jar of testicles but it works. The reason it works is because Rodriguez seems to understand the craziness and freedom that the Grindhouse style gives you. I think this is how he managed to get Josh Brolin to play the deranged doctor or Bruce Willis to play the infected, “villainous” General, as it meant these actors had the freedom to be a little bit silly, crazy and “out-there” knowing that it was all in keeping with this kind of film.
Compared to Death Proof, Rodriguez picked a better genre, story, actors and made a better film that Tarantino did. This felt like I was watching a gory, B-movie and I enjoyed it a lot more because of it.
Overall, really enjoyable. It won’t win any awards for best story or even best acting but that is sort of the point. It clearly looked like a lot of fun to make and Rodriguez seemed to relish the freedom that the Grindhouse style gives you and that helped him make a very enjoyable, silly but entertaining film.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)