Friday, February 8, 2013

Ten Statements About....PLANET TERROR (2007)

Yep...a short Mexican, an Indian and two hot chicks sporting
guns...that's pretty much this film's aesthetic....

"Don't shoot yourself. Don't shoot each other. And especially... don't shoot me."

1) Man, I don't get why Rose MacGowan doesn't have a bigger career--not only because she's gorgeous (the opening go-go dance over the credits should be used as a tutorial for actresses who want to move like a stripper without actually, you know, stripping), but because she's genuinely funny.  Throughout this film, MacGowan's comedic timing is excellent, and many of her lines are laugh-out-loud hilarious.

2) ...although if I had to pick my favorite hot woman in a film stacked with hot women, I'd have to go with Marley Shelton's Dakota Black.  There's something about her eyes that thoroughly sends me, and her story arc (not to mention her strange...aptitude with her hypodermics) makes her a unique character even before Rose MacGowan's Cherry gets, ummmm, 'reloaded.'

(And yes, we will be getting to the Crazy Babysitter could we not?)

3) I love the sheer chutzpah of Robert Rodriguez casting as his main bad-ass Carpenter-esque hero short, slight little Freddy Rodriguez as 'El Wray' (which may very well by a reference to legendary surf guitarist Link Wray)....but damn if Rodriguez doesn't live up to the challenge, moving through the film like a laid-back cheetah and handling both his action and his comedy scenes perfectly.  It helps that he has exceptional chemistry with MacGowan; even when he is mocking her, there is no question about the affection Wray has for Cherry.

4) The reason why I feel this movie is a more faithful example of grindhouse cinema even while Tarantino's Death Proof is a better film is how Rodriguez has a very 'anything goes' attitude.  There's a definite sense that he's shoveled in any crazy idea that once popped into his head when putting this film together--wanna see the hero shooting zombies while riding a pocket bike?  Done.  Wanna see a rapist's raping unit fall apart?  Done.  Wanna see the hottest woman on earth with a machine gun, grenade-enabled leg?  You got it!

5) ....and yet, there is a plan in Rodriguez' head, and he makes very deliberate choices to advance that plan, from the way discoloration creeps around a person when he's introduced to indicate his intentions are nefarious to the way the virtuous deaths (i.e. the ones we're supposed to feel bad about) happen off-screen, while the gratuitous deaths (i.e. the ones we're supposed to cheer on or be pleasantly grossed-out by) are seen in full view.  Hell, Rodriguez counts on us to pick up these connections so that he can just go nuts and get back to the crazy ideas.
No, wait...THIS defines this film's aesthetic better than

6) This is a film that is really, really splattery, with lots of grotesque practical effects.  That being said, the two moments of bodily violence that really made me wince are done with no real special effects.  The death of Dakota's son (played by Rodriguez' son) happens offscreen, with only the sound of a gunshot indicating that it has occured, and is made all the more harrowing due to Shelton's performance in this scene.  But for me, what happens when Dakota slips and falls while trying to open her car door while anesthetized is the single most painful moment of the film to watch.

7) There are moments where I think the film loses its direction during the final act, where the townspeople and the military people finally intersect.  This is the first section of the film where it starts sputtering in fits and starts, particularly in the jail cell and when Dakota and Cherry are appropriated by Quentin Tarantino's Rapist G.I.  It's the first time that we are no longer distracted by the parade of outrageous stuffage and start thinking about those big ol' truck-sized holes in the plot.

Ahhh, the beauty that is the Avellan Twins...and remember,
they're not Sickos...they're just crazy...
8) Even if the film wasn't good--and it is very, very good--I would love this movie if only because it introduced me to Electra and Elise Avellan, a.k.a. The Crazy Babysitter Twins.  These two are just insane in their small role, and they provide some excellent distraction in a moment when things are about to get very, very dark in the film.

9) Supposedly, Rodriguez had asked John Carpenter to do the score, but Carpenter was unable to do so at the last minute...which is fortunate, because I could not imagine anyone but Rodriguez doing the score.  The music's grinding skronk-guitar fits the film's aethetic perfectly.

10) I do wonder if there was a way to keep Josh Brolin's Dr. Black around longer.  Of all the villainous types, he's the one that makes the most impression with his performance and not with his face.  He creates a very spooky, chilling character who has this weirdly uncanny resemblance to Nick Nolte that helps shore up the idea that this is some forgotten New World Picture discovered in some back room in L.A. somewhere.

Overall...a film that properly captures the mix of gruesomeness and fun of low budget genre filmmaking in the 70's shored up by some excellent performances and a sharp, perceptive directorial turn by Rodriguez.

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