Back in 2007, directors, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decided to take cinema back to the days of the grindhouse theater with a double-feature simply known as, well, 'Grindhouse'. These old school theaters were also known as "action houses", and would air low-budget films aimed at adults with plenty of action, gore, sex, whatever might get your film a hard R to X-rating. The first movie on the list is Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror'.
But first, a "prevue" of 'Machete' from Rodriguez as the first of a few fake trailers throughout the presentation. Another three would be seen before 'Death Proof', and in some places, one for 'Hobo with a Shotgun' could be seen. Of course, only 'Machete' and 'Hobo' eventually became real movies, themselves (with the original fake trailers being quite a bit different than the actual films), but never say never to the other ones eventually coming to a theater (or home) near you. The trailers are one of the most fun aspects of 'Grindhouse', as they're so delightfully over the top. However, we have to get to our feature presentation eventually, right?
'Planet Terror' sort of has three stories that eventually end up rolling into one. First, we meet a Texas go-go dancer named Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) who quits her job, and ends up running into her ex-boyfriend, El Wray (Freddy Rodríguez). Meanwhile, a Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) tries to get his hands on the dangerous chemical, DC2. A transaction goes wrong when his supplier, Abby (Naveen Andrews), ends up causing chemical a leak during a struggle, turning much of the town into zombies. This eventually brings in our third story, with doctors Dakota and William Block (Marley Shelton and Josh Brolin, respectively). In the process of trying to treat the infected, it's revealed that Dakota is having an affair, making William a little destructive and forcing Dakota on the run with their son, Tony (Rebel Rodriguez).
Without going into too much detail, as the town is being overrun by horrors, each character has to deal with their own problems while trying to fend off zombies; most prominent being Cherry getting her leg eaten off, and for most of the film, walking around on a stick - until the stick becomes a gun, and we have the quintessential badass movie poster character. For the most part, it's a survival horror movie, but doesn't quite feel like your typical zombie movie. These are zombies that can seem to think for themselves pretty well - they can operate tools, for example. It certainly gives you all the fun of a zombie flick, but does so with a certain level of badassery that only someone like Rodriguez can deliver.
What I admire most here is how these movies are filmed with graininess, scratches, burn marks and the like, making it look super low budget. There's even a pretty brilliant moment here where the screen goes to black and apologizes to us for the missing reel. I think it's a choice of style to be admired, as it shows that we can still have a lot of fun with film. In a way, 'Grindhouse' has managed to pick up a lost art and bring it back. Sure, we have a good share of "brutal" movies today, but it has reached the mainstream by today's horror standards. However, I must say, there's something about the grainy style that really lends itself to the horrors involved, and puts 'Grindhouse' in its own dark little corner. I had a lot of fun with 'Planet Terror'. It's ridiculous, but there's also an odd horrific charm to it, plus... c'mon, Rose McGowan with a gun leg is totally awesome.