What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this tongue-in-cheek zombie gorefest celebrates and partially re-creates the brutal sex-and-action "exploitation" movies that played in bad-neighborhood theaters from the 1960s through the '80s. That means it luxuriates in blood-soaked violence and sexually suggestive sleaze and has loads of swearing, carnage, and erotica (though actual nudity is brief). It's a campy takeoff, but the humor is quite gruesome, not the goofy silliness found in Scary Movie-type parodies.
What's the story?
PLANET TERROR is set in Texas, where a group of military men under the command of Bruce Willis try to steal some kind of gas bio-weapon, which is released into the air. People all over town wind up infected and crowded into a hospital, where they mutate into pus-oozing, cannibalistic, zombie-like psychopaths, while a number of untainted civilians come to fore as the main characters -- chiefly a tow-truck driver named Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), who's actually some sort of legendary commando-gunfighter living under an alias; his foulmouthed, estranged lover Cherry (Rose McGowan); Dr. Bill Block (Josh Brolin), the hospital's nasty chief surgeon; and his medic-wife Dakota (Marley Shelton).
Is it any good?
Planet Terror originally visited theaters in a two-part concoction called Grindhouse that was an attempt by directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to re-create a double-bill of the shabby exploitation movies of bygone days. Planet Terror is Rodriguez's contribution, a campy tribute to zombie-horror gorefests of the 1970s and early 1980s. Though shot digitally, Planet Terror re-creates the look of ultra-cheap, mismatched, faded film stock; emulsion scratches; bad splices; and missing footage.
Rodriguez puts his typical high energy into the exercise, as well as indulging in what makes grindhouse movies so fascinating to their adherents. Lots of people die in excruciating and tasteless fashion. Pets die. Children die. (In his DVD commentary, Rodriguez states that exploitation filmmakers would do anything to get a reaction from their audience, chucking out all sense of right and wrong in the process.)
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie's intentionally shocking material. Why would the ultra-violence and butchery of this film be considered entertaining? At what point do viewers become desensitized to this type of barrage of violence and gore? Is the excess meant to be funny? Do you think films like this one only appeal to a certain audience? Who is that audience, and why are they drawn to material like this? Are the vintage '60s and '70s exploitation movies that this one was inspired by still relevant today? How would you characterize the women in the movie? Are they victims or heroines? How does their sexuality work for and against them?