m500.jpgAVPR, or Alien vs Predator: Requiem was always going to be a terrible film. There was probably no way of making it any good, as a sequel to a double franchise smooshing melange of an idea already done better in a comic. The gestation of such a film is almost as complex and unlikely as the very gestation of the Alien (something which gets slightly tweaked here – as if any Alien film needs to make the exceedingly complex EVEN MORE COMPLEX). Unlike the artificial Pyramid Of Doom set-up of AVP, AVPR finally answers the fanboy cries of what would happen if the Aliens got to Earth. And it would be exactly as Sigourney Weaver always predicted – kinda boring. But then both the Aliens and Predators gave up the ability to scare beyond surprise, and a film which has dark, complex and frankly unengaging sequences of two alien creatures fighting each other is not going to emotionally grab you easily. But then the town which this epic battle ranges over is full of even more unengaging people, to be picked off. And you don’t care, not just because they have elected the most inept sheriff for their town ever seen in a film. You don’t care because there has been no attempt to give them characters beyond names and what they are wearing: and half the time what they are wearing has to do double duties. Mysterious returnee, school jock, hottie, returned soldier, obligatory female child are all dangled to die – and perhaps the biggest shock in the film is how many of them survive. Alien films have never had a survival rate like this.

It was interesting to see AVPR near Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez’s (far superior) half of Grindhouse. Whilst Tarantino’s Death Proof took excessive glee in its misogyny, and just had those Tarantino conversations WHICH GO ON FOREVER, Rodriguez has taken to the task with a lot more gusto. If his task is to make a schlocky B-movie, he has excelled. While filling the film with all sorts of cheesy cliches, he never forgets to give us characters we care about having a grand adventure. This is what AVPR forgot, there is nothing wrong with one dimensional characters, as long as they are given their moment to shine. It may be corny, and Planet Terror piles on the corn with every catchphrase and throwaway item to be picked up later in the film, but it works. So the BBQ chef searching for the perfect recipe, the mysterious stranger El Ray, and best of all our lead character Cherry (Rose McGowan above). A extended GoGo dance over the intro may not be seen as characterisation, but here it is – and she is given a proper arc including amputation, sex and redemption. Add bubbling flesh zombies, dodgy army hijinks, an exploding hospital and a couple of fighting babysitters and you do get an hour and a half of the kind of horror fun I haven’t enjoyed since probably Evil Dead 2.

I saw Planet Terror on my own, and wished I hadn’t. I saw AVPR with Magnus, and whilst we tried to wring as much fun out of its poor dialogue, truth is is was not so bad it was enjoyable. Planet Terror was so good at aping the bad that it was terrific. But then this is not surprising. Planet Terror is the best thing Rodriguez has done since Spy Kids, and reminded me in many ways of Spy Kids. Rodriguez is at his best when he is making his own films, for himself to enjoy. Spy Kids was the kids film he always wanted to see, Planet Terror is the grindhouse movie he always wanted to see. Treat yourself, watch Planet Terror with some mates and don’t go near AVPR.

*This is not my joke, it belongs to Magnus and is possibly on its last legs.