It's unlikely you'll be reading this review without having heard about the Grindhouse debacle across the pond a few months ago. Cult directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's double-bill homage to the low-budget horror-schlock of (a partly imagined) 1970s was, in typical Weinstein style, butchered when it turned out audiences simply didn't get it and walked out after the first half.

Assuming UK audiences would be just as stupid, the film was slashed in two, with Tarantino's Death Proof getting release over here first. This is a pity really as Tarantino's film is awful (He hasn't made a good film in 13 years): an atrociously dull act of self-fellatio in which he shows off for an hour and a half that yes, he's just that good at dialogue. I fell asleep. Then I almost missed the car crash, the sole 30 seconds of excitement in it.

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It's perhaps fitting for a film about gore and missing body parts then that Rodriguez's severed contribution has eventually washed up on these shores. Planet Terror is glorious, a hilariously stupid zombie fest that spoofs and honours grindhouse so much better than the tenuously related Death Proof.

The Sin City director spins a ridiculous yarn involving a wholesome cast embedded in Americana. There's the Mexican biker (Freddy Rodriguez); the gun toting, BBQ sauce-eating hillbilly; the hard boiled doctor (his prescription: pain); the stripper with a missing leg. Oh, and some zombies.

Somewhere slap-bang in the middle of the mid-west, a shady deal between mobsters and even shadier military (Bruce Willis having fun) goes awry, and a virus transforming people into flesh-eating monsters is unleashed upon the locals. The film focuses on the increasingly small circle of survivors. Including the stripper (Rose McGowan), who importantly, has her leg bitten off. Then replaced with a bit of plywood.

You may have realised by now that this utterly beside the point. It would be hard to come up with a siller and less relevant plot than Planet Terror's. But this doesn't matter in the slightest. The joy comes from watching Rodriguez gradually crank the dial up to 11 in every respect. Zombies with bloodied faces turn into mutating, drooping penises, and action scenes move from explosions and car chases to a woman on a flying motorcycle firing a machine gun attached to the stump of her leg.

Rodriguez ticks all of the boxes you'd imagine would be on the parody list. Bad lighting, missing reels, fuzzy, fading film stock and poorly focused softcore sex scenes. That makes it sound like a spoof on Youtube, but Rodriguez is the master of low budget film making (He made Mexican shoot'em up El Mariachi for a meagre $7,000), and he knows how to hit the nail on the head.

Despite the difference in pure fun, there are alot of similarities between Planet Terror and Death Proof. Apart from the obviously annoying cameos by Tarantino in both (He hasn't turned in a good one since his Dead N***** Storage monologue in Pulp Fiction), they both send up a beloved genre by transposing this fantasy universe to the present, as Kill Bill did. It's a subtle acknowledgement of just how influential the genre has been and still is: the cliches they show aren't as exclusive to B-Movies as producers would like to admit. The spirit of Russ Meyer lives on.

The main thing UK audiences will miss by not seeing Grindhouse as a whole is how it sends up the role of women in Hollywood movies: victims and heroines simulataneously passive sex objects and empowered, murdered with relish on the part of the camerawork, yet ultimately conquering, be it through paraplegic acrobatics or kicking the living crap out of Kurt Russell. Both parts are intelligent films highlighting this paradox. The only difference is that Rodriguez hasn't forgotten to make the film enoyable in the process. Of course, most grindhouse films were interminable, but the joy of Planet Terror is that it revels in the nostalgic idea of it, as well as the reality.

A word should be spared for the joke trailers too (although it is unclear at this stage whether they will be shown alongside the UK release). Please, please, watch them. Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women Of The SS deserves to be made into a film proper, and Machete, featuring Danny Trejo, spoofs the character he's been typecast as all of his career. It's rarely a compliment to say the trailers are as good as the feature, but in this case, it should clinch it for you.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2007
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Planet Terror packshot
Survivors take on infected zombies in the second part of the double-bill formerly known as Grindhouse.
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Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writer: Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Freddy Rodríguez, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Michael Parks, Jerili Romeo, Tom Savini, Rebel Rodriguez, Carlos Gallardo

Year: 2007

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Death Proof