Wednesday, November 30, 2016

No Country For The Undead, or Thoughts on Planet Terror

The first half of the double feature/grindhouse experiment/collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Planet Terror (2007) by writer director Robert Rodriguez follows a zombie outbreak in a small Texas town over one night.  Although this movie was shown first, there’s a Jungle Julia reference on the radio that prove that these events actually happened after Death Proof (2007), in case you pay attention to such trivial details, and I know you do.
There are multiple story lines to increase dramatic tension amongst the dark humor and darker special effects, but they distill down to two couples; Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez as El Wray, part-time tow truck operator and full time Mexican action hero with a mysterious past and Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling, go-go dancer and aspiring stand-up comedian, along with Josh Brolin doing a variation of Llewellyn Moss as the homicidal Dr. William Block and Marley Shelton as Dr. Dakota Block, also estranged daughter of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw from Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996), as portrayed once more by Michael Parks.
And these are particularly, uniquely gross zombies with throbbing pustules that spew infected goo all over their victims, in addition to the traditional biting and eating.  The military, as always, is responsible for the bio-horror, and the green fog that shrouds the night is straight out The Return of The Living Dead https://goo.gl/vajIHN (1985).  You can hear the Tarantino script tune up, what with everyone smoking red apple cigarettes, and there’s a surprising amount of severed limb and castration jokes, culminating in Cherry Darling’s infamous machine gun peg leg. 
With similar over-saturated colors and scratchy film grain as Death Proof, it has the same look, but also includes quiet sentimental moments amidst the bloody mayhem that actually work and have resonance.  Fortunately before it gets too maudlin the reel goes missing, because you know, grindhouse.
There are cameos galore with Michael Biehn, who gets a lifetime pass after playing Kyle Reese as Sherriff Haig, Naveen Andrews, Sayid from Lost, as Abby, a testicle collecting rogue scientist and also Jeff Fahey, Frank from Lost, as JT, the barbecue obsessed gas station owner.  Bruce Willis, who is such a big star people forget that he was Butch in Pulp Fiction (1994) appears Lt. Muldoon, along with Quentin himself as a renegade soldier/movie aficionado/rapist aptly billed as Rapist# 1.  He compares Cherry Darling to Ava Gardner and y'know, he's kinda right.
Rose McGowan’s machine gun leg is some of the best uses of modern CGI, while the more traditional effects were created by Walking Dead producer Gregory Nicotero, who incidentally made his big screen acting debut in Day of the Dead (1985) where he was also an assistant to Tom Savini, who loses a finger in this movie.  Dakota’s hand paralysis is a nice nod to Franco Nero's Django (1966 all these fellas have seen the same movies) while Quentin (or Robert, but let’s face it, probably Quentin) snuck in a real trailer amongst all the fake trailers with Women in Cages (1971, with Pam Grier, who follows me on Twitter). 





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