Wednesday, October 17, 2007

planet terror

i missed grindouse when it was in theaters this spring, so i'm having to catch up watching the separately released expanded + unrated parts of the 'double feature' on dvd: quentin tarantino's death proof + robert rodriquez's planet terror.

when it came out about a month ago, i liked the first half of death proof well enough, talky + self-conscious yet still entertaining.

but i felt the second half of the film (the girls' exacting vengeance) was neither as fun as i wanted it to be nor as socially redeeming as the filmmakers thought it would be.

the stuntwork at the end managed to both impress + bore, sort of what i'd imagine a nascar event to do.

i was braced for vague disappointment again when planet terror came out on dvd earlier this week.

boy, was i surprised.

this half of the grindhouse bill was everything i hoped for--witty, sick, fast paced, + sexy--a real treat.

i won't give away too much of the plot, such as it is, but the story focuses on a group of people in texas caught in the middle of a zombie attack, unleashed by a military mission gone wrong.

mostly what happens can be summed up in one word: eviscerations. maybe two words: eviscerations galore.

the fun of the movie, for those like me who can enjoy this sort of thing, is that the bloodletting is entirely gratuitous, morally unredeeming, + counter-conventional.

after a while, it loses its shock value, but the script is stronger than most zombie-slasher films, with neat reversals of fortune + witty dialogue that is self-aware without descending into direct airplane- or scream-like parody. in this respect, it's a bit like shaun of the dead, another favorite of mine.

unlike death proof, planet terror has a strong + assured cast, including old pros like bruce willis (king of past guilty pleasures like the last boy scout + the fifth element), michael biehn (his youthful cuteness aging nicely into craggy sexiness in his 50s), michael parks (ditto, in his 60s), + quentin tarantino in the best role of his career as actor.

marley shelton is awesome in this film (playing the same character she plays in death proof), a morally + sexually ambiguous doctor, who has the funniest + most darkly disturbing scenes in the movie.

i've been enamored with rose mcgowan since the doom generation (she's the only reason to watch jawbreaker, apart from ethan erickson, whose bedroom scene with mcgowan is that movie's only bright spot). i haven't followed her t.v. work at all, + only casually, her long engagement to marilyn manson (now she's with rodriguez, her planet terror director).

her performance in planet terror is iconic, obvious even in the previews for grindhouse, which had me chomping at the bit to see it, but unable to convince my friends to see it with me (i need new friends). when she spins firing her machine-gun prosthetic leg, i recognized something akin to marilyn monroe's skirt billowing over the subway vent.

planet terror is also a good showing for director rodriguez, who's managed to make at last the movie he must have had in mind when he directed from dusk till dawn.

now, i'm glad i missed grindhouse in the theaters. death proof would have been painful to sit through following the dazzling ride of planet terror, + had death proof opened the double bill, i might have been tempted to leave during the break.

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