20
Sep 09

My Ten Favourite Films Of 2008: 4. Planet Terror

Do You See + FT2 comments • 236 views

I was initially disappointed to find out that this was not a sci-fi film about some rogue wine makers terraforming a whole planet to make the best wine int he universe. But hey, someone else can make Planet Terroir.

I am not going to use this as an opportunity to slag off Quentin Tarantino. OK, maybe a bit. The whole Grindhouse project had at its heart great intentions to spread the love of shoddy, poorly written, poorly made, poorly acted exploitation movies. But given a much larger budget, better actors and a couple of film makers who already have a track record for making pretty good movies. All they can ever have made were pastiches. And a loving pastiche is lots of fun, but the difference between Planet Terror and Death Proof is that what Rodriguez wanted to pastiche was HIS ultimate Grindhouse film. And what Rodriguez has always been good at, if at the expense of other aspects sometimes, is throwing ideas at the screen and telling a story. El Mariachi is a Grindhouse film, Spy Kids is to all intents and purposes a Grindhouse film. There is a reason Tarantino didn’t direct From Dusk Til Dawn, when its about frenetic action and cheap effects Rodriguez is your man.

Planet Terror is remarkably silly, but remarkably good fun. Because it is a pastiche Rodriguez is able to play with your expectations, play jokes with the form but never with the reality in its narrative. He can use the “missing reel” trick to jump over the boring stuff, he can make the odd jump cut to speed the pace of the movie. Because while its a dumb narrative, but is it really any more dumb than most summer horror/action movies? The sad thing is that many of the aspects of the old grindhouse movies are still alive and kicking, poor scripts, shoddy direction, really dumb plots. That’s just summer films all over. At least Planet Terror has a look, has an attitude, has in its attempt to make Rodriguez’s ur-grindhouse movie an ambition beyond just making money (just as well). He is making a point that even if you are stacking up clichés, using ropey effects and even a second hand aesthetic it can still be much, much more than the sum of its parts. Planet Terror was the most purely entertaining hour and a half I spent in a cinema last year. And that is what Grindhouse is all about.

Comments

  1. 1
    bnw on 22 Sep 2009 #

    Critics got it wrong by looking for the better movie of the two.

  2. 2
    Pete on 22 Sep 2009 #

    You may be right, but the full Grindhouse wasn’t released in the UK so I didn’t get the chance (it did get a few airings at the Prince Charles in London, but that was after I had seen both separately). I can certainly see how a shorter Deathproof would work a lot better, and perhaps paired with the all out silly thrills of Planet Terror it would have made a nice counterbalance. But that’s all supposition.

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