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Planet Terror (2007)

Written and Directed by Robert Rodriguez

     Planet Terror was made first with the remaining budget used in Tarantino’s picture, giving an added challenge to Rodriguez who had more special effects. Having written the first 30 pages while making The Faculty back in 1998, Rodriguez had suspected zombies would be coming back in a big way and wanted to be the first to strike when zombie mania hit. Taking a break before finishing his script, Rodriguez held auditions for the film stating that once he was able to know who he was casting he’d be able to write the parts working to their strengths. Rodriguez also used a significant amount more of the aging, scratching and couple other techniques in “fixing” the film by more or less roughing it up.

Cherry (Rose McGowan) plays our brave and comical heroine in the film. Setting the tone by using the opening credits to showcase her great moves and physicality by go-go dancing in which Rodriguez captured great pan shots of her mixed with moves the two had worked on together. Ending the dance on a rather sad note Cherry goes to the back where the owner approaches her asking if she was aware of what type of dance she was paid for; “It’s go-go, not cry cry.” Letting Skip know that she’d be quitting, for good this time, she hitch-hikes but is later pushed off the side of the road by some military RV’s on their way to a base not far out.

Once arriving at the base Abby (Naveen Andrews) gets out of the car as he prepares to talk business. They however end up discussing an escape that’s occurred, Abby deciding he could no longer trust his supposed business friends. Reporting that because of this mishap he would now need to take their balls, for his collection. Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) bides his time before exiting the parked hummer to ask where “the shit” was. An obvious deal gone wrong leads to each side releasing bullets on one another. Abby getting one last chance to divulge the information before stating it was “everywhere,” and turning to shoot a canister immediately releasing gases. Taking his cue to leave Abby jumps in the hummer and speeds away as the camera pans to JT’s (Jeff Fahey) BBQ shop, “The Bone Shack” where
we soon find Cherry Darling and her ex lover Wray (Freddy Rodríguez).

The sound of an alarm goes off at 8pm as we see Dr.’s William (Josh Brolin) and Dakota (Marley Shelton) Block preparing for their night shift. Finding Dakota in the kitchen on the phone with the babysitter, she explains only having to stay until 10 in which someone would be by to pick up Tony (Rebel Rodriguez). Back at the Bone Shack JT informs Wray of his special anniversary night, being the second one in attendance. Glancing to his left and noticing Cherry, he sits down and states “that’s my jacket, I looked for it for two weeks.”(a repeated line perhaps foreshadowing to something; hmm) Also crushing her next dream of becoming a standup comedian by telling her she wasn’t funny. Freddy and Rose shared great comedic chemistry throughout, playing off of each other well with their one-liners.

Back at the hospital Dakota and William part ways. One headed off suspiciously while the other with a clear aggression and little regard on looking back. Robert had written the role of Dakota especially for Marley after working on Sin City together. William meets with a patient (Nicky Katt) who had some sort of lesion on his arm that spread the more time passed. His tongue along with the rest of his arm not looking at getting any better are followed by Dakota’s “little friends.” The yellow one to take off the sting, the blue one barely feeling and after her red headed friend affirming he’d never see her again. Robert having taken that bit from a friend stating to have a Doctor whose routine went as such. A brief moment away from the hospital shows Tammy’s (Stacy Ferguson) car having broken down indefinitely.  Attempting to hitch-hike Tammy is bombarded by a group of mutated zombies as a car witnesses them dragging the body into the woods. Who is this random and rushed pedestrian and where do you suppose she was headed off to?

We find Wray comforting Cherry by stating it was probably just people picking up road kill. Giving a speech on how not to slow down or swerve if seeing any on the road. Almost instantly getting spooked and flipping the vehicle, Cherry’s dragged out and has her leg chewed right off. Rushed to the hospital Wray speaks with William letting him know that whatever dismembered her took the leg with them. Introducing Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn) and Deputy Tolo (Tom Savini) who claim Wray needed to go with them. Inquiring as to why he had a rifle, Wray begins looking around and taking note of the sudden rush of infected people surrounding them. Chalked up to “Dam Wednesday nights,” Williams asks for his wife so as to share who had just been brought in. Showing her the latest victim an obvious look of dismay crosses Dakota’s face as she sees Tammy. Which confirms his former thoughts after retrieving Tammy’s phone for further evidence. Confronting his wife with her own “friends” and asking to see her phone, she’s backed into a corner and eventually placed into a closet. Rushing to help paramedics Williams is in awe of the somehow misplaced corpses and empty gurney’s that now surround them.

While back at the Sheriff’s office we briefly see Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) before he heads out. Hague’s questioning interrupted by a phone call from JT who we find out is his brother. Expressing concern for some questionable people outside his place, Hague counters with asking for the temperature of which his brother’s BBQ recipe was cooked. The two sharing an ongoing fight in order to obtain the family secret stating:

“Brother, ain’t no Texan’s ever gonna give you his BBQ recipe, that’s a fact! He’ll take it to his grave! I could be bleedin’ like a stuffed pig and I ain’t gonna tell ya! I could be dyin’ in your arms and I ain’t gonna tell ya!”

Deputy Tolo returns to the office with a less than thrilled disposition thanks to a prisoner having just bitten his finger clean off. The other officers accompany him outside to search the area where the suspect may have headed off to, having bitten off more than they could chew. Turning into an all out war already in the midst of complete chaos at the hospital, Wray and Sheriff Hague set off to get Cherry. Having lost feeling in both hands, Dakota jumps ship (jumping out the window), as determination takes over and finding a car becomes more of a challenge than an obstacle. Wray later finding a clearly distraught Cherry among the chaos; attaching a peg until able to find a more permanent solution.

Dakota is the first to get home and has no trouble kicking out the crazy babysitter twins (Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan) as Tony packs up. The majority of people reconvening at JT’s so as to check on him, gather supplies, and head out once more. Though Dakota takes Tony to her father’s (Earl McGraw) and stupidly trusts him with a gun, regretting her decision soon enough. By the time we get back to “The Bone Shack” it had gone up in flames and Tolo had accidentally shot Hague as they gathered in the garage to make their way off the property.

What’s at first a way out turns into a dead end running into Abby and captured by Lt. Muldoon at a crossroad. Most of them are kept together except for Cherry and Dakota who follow Raptist #1 (Tarantino) who would rather “play.” While trying to make their escape, JT receives a gunshot wound as the two brothers are left behind to say their final goodbyes. Summing up the rest as best and easily can; Wray and Abby run into Muldoon who explain the nature of the disease. And finally upholds his promise of finding something more stable for Cherry in the form of a machine gun. With an all or nothing escape taking them to safety.

The story itself is a bit scattered. Truth being that there are entirely too many great people and tangled tales within to give away. Part of the reason I usually cannot refer to Quentin without Robert’s name or vice versa being that I believe they balance each other out so well. You have Quentin for the fantastic dialogue sequences, Robert for the nitty grittiness of getting everything he can out of a film and editing process. Both creating characters that are wildly entertaining and believing them both to be great inspirations of how dedication and imagination can create great film experiences. Topped with a hilarious lead in Freddy Rodriguez who was able to just as easily pull off the action sequences.

Anytime someone was attacked or something bad would happen in the film, the screen would deteriorate, clearing out once the danger had subsided. There were also a moment when the two Doctor’s make a hand chop motion and a separate scene where Wray punches his fist, using splices to seemingly cut the scene. A last example being as Quentin’s character stopped the elevator and became irritated, it began bleeding over with red as it filled the scene. It’s difficult to not give credit where due. Writes, directs, produces, edit’s and composes the score…now you’re just showing off Rodriguez. Though I certainly don’t mind.

    Mad Facts: ~Original title idea was “Project Terror”

~Bruce Willis’s casting was a supposed nod to old marketing ploy’s typically used within Grindhouse, casting a big name celebrity to reel in people

~Skip Reissig (Skip, the owner of the strip club), Felix Sabates (Felix, the Doctor), and Tommy Nix (Paramedic Nixer) are Robert’s real estate agent, doctor and friend in real life i.e. It’s nice to know Robert Rodriguez 😉

~Cameo by El mariachi’s own Carlos Gallardo playing Deputy Carlos

~Freddy Rodriguez wore his own jacket throughout the movie as wardrobe could not locate one

~At the Land of the Dead premiere Robert and Quentin were speaking to George Romero while pointing at Tom Savini in the distance. Not being able to talk that night Savini emailed Robert later asking why he had pointed at him with Robert thanking him for reminding him he wanted him to be in the film.

~Instead of telling his son Rebel that he dies in the film Robert made a different ending in which he makes it to the end, saying better later in life in letting him know.

~Marley Shelton’s to do list at the hospital has KILL BILL as the last item

~Machine gun leg was a cast around McGowan’s leg with a green sock over, or variations of such

~body count of 281 (web helped on that one) (watching the steelbook version special features for the rest)