They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!
In Robert Rodriguez’s instant zombie classic, a small Texas town becomes ground zero for a gruesome epidemic when the Army’s “Project Terror” – a biochemical doomsday weapon – mutates a platoon of soldiers (and eventually most of the townspeople) into raving, pustulent cannibals.
Leading the charge against the zombies are a hard-assed sheriff (Michael Biehn), a lone wolf with a checkered past (Freddy Rodriguez (no relation to Robert)) and Cherry Darling – a one-legged go-go dancer (Rose McGowan). Of course, she’s not one-legged at the start of the film. That would make no sense. How she loses the leg and winds up with a machine gun prosthetic is a tale for the annals of horror legend.
How do you pick just one killer scene in an over-the-top funhouse that’s packed to the gills with killer scenes? I guess I’d have to go with the most over-the-top bit, in which Cherry saves our band of intrepid heroes by mowing a swath to their getaway chopper with her Bushmaster assault rifle/pegleg. At one point, she uses the under-barrel grenade launcher to vault herself into the air and rain death from above. This is much sexier than it sounds.
Planet Terror delivers assloads of eye candy, if you happen to be a fan of hot women. McGowan, Marley Shelton, Fergie, and Elizabeth and Elise Avellan (playing The Crazy Babysitter Twins) are smokin’ (Mr. Rodriguez, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t think it’s weird for me to lust after your nieces-in-law).
The opening credits rival any of Maurice Binder’s Bond title sequences for sheer shameless cheesecake and there’s a love scene between Cherry and her main squeeze that’s literally a show stopper.
How bloody is Planet Terror? Imagine the Fountains of Bellagio in crimson. When zombies get shot, they don’t just splatter. They erupt. Rodriguez slathers on the gore with gusto, delivering a cavalcade of the gruesome: suppurating boils, liquefying flesh, blood spraying onto the lens, scrotums being lopped or melted off. Appropriately, special effects maestro Tom Savini plays a deputy who’s literally torn to pieces.
For all its violence, Planet Terror is not particularly scary. There are a couple good gotchas, but the vibe of the film is more that of a roller-coaster than a true fright fest. That said, the score goes a long way toward establishing an atmosphere of dread. It’s also a successful largely synth-based homage to John Carpenter’s work.
If you didn’t get a chance to see the Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature Grindhouse five years ago and haven’t got three hours to watch it now, skip Tarantino’s Death Proof and watch Planet Terror. I know Death Proof has its admirers, it’s got its merits, it’s got a couple of sweet car chases and passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors.
But Planet Terror is a full-bore, rocket-from-the-crypt thrill machine that delivers the goods in buckets. Like the delightfully sleazy midnight movies that inspired it, the film was meticulously scratched and weathered in post. The reds are lurid and blacks have a greenish, unhealthy tinge to them, just like an old film print that’s been bleached by time.
With a fantastic ensemble cast (nowhere else will you see Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin deliver — with the utmost gravity — the line, “I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge”) and an uncompromising commitment to fun, Planet Terror is a genre masterpiece.