(director/writer: Robert Rodriguez; cinematographer: Robert Rodriguez; editor: Robert Rodriguez/Ethan Maniquis; music: Robert Rodriguez; cast: Rose McGowan (Cherry Darling), Freddy Rodriguez (Wray), Josh Brolin (Dr. William Block), Jeff Fahey (J.T.), Michael Biehn (Sheriff Hague), Naveen Andrews (Abby), Marley Shelton (Dr. Dakota Block), Rebel Rodriguez (Tony Block), Bruce Willis (Lt. Muldoon), Electra Avellan & Elise Avellan (Babysitter Twins), Julio Oscar Mechoso (Romy), Michael Parks (Earl McGraw), Nicky Katt (Joe), Tom Savini (Deputy Tolo), Quentin Tarantino (Lewis), Skip Reissig (Skip); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Elizabeth Avellan/Quentin Tarantino/ Robert Rodriguez; Dimension Films; 2007)
A dull-witted homage to 1970s schlock Grindhouse horror films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dull-witted homage to 1970s schlock Grindhouse zombie horror films. It’s written and directed by maverick indie filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (“100 Years”/”Machete”), who also provides the music, the camera operation, co-edits and co-produces. Rodriguez films it as an inane ‘save the world’ exploitation film that gets by on a skimpy plot and on high energy storytelling and its loopy characters. Though a bad film, it could be amusing if you don’t take it seriously. At a US military base in a small Texas town, a dangerous experimental bio-chemical gas (DC6 nerve gas)developed by scientist smuggler Abby (Naveen Andrews) is accidentally released during a fracas when a corrupt army unit and the scientist have a falling out. The rogue unit is led by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), who attempts to steal it for his own nefarious purposes. If exposed to the gas, the person becomes a flesh eating, mutating zombie. When at night there are large groups of human-like zombies on a rampage, the aspiring standup comedian ex-go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) hitches a ride with her tow-truck operator ex-boyfriend, Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), and they team up to fight the zombies. When Cherry’s leg is amputated, a machine-gun replaces her prosthetic leg. The couple are aided in the fight by a clownish restaurant barbecue owner (Jeff Fahey) and his uptight sheriff brother (Michael Biehn). Also resisting the zombies is Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton), whose repellent husband, Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin), in a jealous rage that his wife has a female lover, tries killing her in the hospital while they work in the emergency room in the middle of the disgusting mutating pustules zombie epidemic. The few survivors escape by helicopter to a possible safe haven, as the dead zombies return to life to take control of the planet and threaten to wipe out the human race. It’s gross, bloody and filled with non-stop action. Though the cheap film touches base with the violent Grindhouse films it revisits, it’s too cheesy to be appealing and too close in spirit to the originals to be a spoof. Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror was the first half of the Grindhouse double bill, that had Tarantino’s Death Proof. But after bombing at the box office in its North America release, each film was released separately.

Rose McGowan in Planet Terror (2007)