7/16/09

B.L.O.G Presents Rose McGowen in Planet Terror (2007)

When you’ve been married as long as Ms. Directed and I have, then you sometimes have to deal with each other’s little idiosyncrasies. Take for example my wife’s television viewing habits. If there’s a series that has anything to do with science fiction or supernatural, then she’s there. So that means lots of Buffy, Supernatural, Heroes, and worst of all Charmed. The three former shows I can watch, but I can’t claim to be a big fan of any of them. Charmed, however, I find to be terrible, and if there’s anything I can do rather than watch it, I will. Well, that is except the episodes that tonight’s B.L.O.G. was in. Yes, even I will watch Charmed if you mix it with a little…..


Rose has long been a favorite of mine going back to her early years when she starred in the indie flick The Doom Generation, a very enjoyable and nearly forgotten film. The same year she showed up in Wes Craven’s Scream, and then in 1999, she starred in one of my favorite all time black comedies, Jawbreaker. I can even forgive her tryst with Marilyn Manson for two reasons. First, the chain link dress she wore to the MTV Music awards, and secondly that she continued to star in films that I liked such as the much-maligned Monkeybone (2001) and her turn as Ann-Margaret in the Jonathan Ryes Meyer’s TV version of Elvis’ life. Sadly, soon after that, Charmed took her out of movie roles for the next few years, but in 2006, she returned to the screen with a part in The Black Dahlia. Yet nothing peaked my interest more than when I first heard she would play a part in the Rodriguez/Tarantino co-production Grindhouse.

I want to say right off that I’m not going to look at the double feature version of Grindhouse as a whole, but just the Robert Rodriguez helmed portion, Planet Terror. I have plans to talk about Tarantino’s part of the picture soon, but for now, you’ll have to wait to find out what my thoughts are on his portion of the film. The only thing I will say is that my favorite part of seeing Grindhouse in the theater was Planet Terror, and I have re-watched it several times since then.

Planet Terror is the story of Cherry Darling (Rose McGowen), a go-go dancer who’s had just about enough of her job. She quits her job to peruse a career in stand up comedy (even though no one thinks she is funny), and soon finds her way to local BBQ joint, the Bone Shack, where she drowns her sorrows in a bottle of Shiner Bock beer. There she meets up with her former boyfriend Wray (Freddie Rodriguez), and she hitches a ride in his tow truck. While trying to avoid something in the road, Wray loses control of the truck and crashes it off the side of the road. No one is hurt, well, that is until Cherry is pulled from the truck by some mysterious attackers and her leg is torn from her body. Wray fights the attackers off, and he gets Cherry to the hospital. It soon becomes apparent that the populace of the Texas town has been infected by something that is turning them into flesh eating zombies, and soon Cherry, Wray, and a band of survivors are all that is left to defend against the zombie plague.

Since this post is intended to be about Rose McGowen’s role as Cherry, I focused on her role in the film with the synopsis, but to be fair the film is much more than that. It features a couple of other storylines and a ton of great performances, which I will get into in a moment here. First, let me talk about McGowen. Rose was the perfect casting as go-go dancer Cherry, and with her beauty and her sardonic delivery, she brings the character fully to life. It makes a lot of sense to me that Robert Rodriguez said that Planet Terror was intended to be a throwback to the films of John Carpenter. Cherry, like all the other characters, displays the kind of reserved cool that characters in films such as Escape from New York or They Live embodied.

McGowen’s dancer is one of the most kick ass females I’ve seen in movies in quite some time, and nothing, and I do mean nothing, in film in the last 10 years has pleased me quite so much as the machine gun leg. The sight of McGowen blowing away her foes (including Tarantino in a rather disturbing lecherous role) was a sight to behold. When I saw it in the theater, I had to fight the urge to stand up and cheer, and luckily, now with the film in a take home format, no one can stop me from doing such in my own living room.

Speaking of kick ass, there’s a ton of other kick ass people in this flick. This is the first film that brought James Brolin to my attention. While No Country for Old Men cemented his reputation in my mind, his turn in PT as an eccentric doctor was a highlight of the film. Also really blowing me away was Freddy Rodriguez. I only knew Freddy from his reserved role as an undertaker on the Alan Ball series Six Feet Under. What I didn’t know is what a great action star this guy could be. Wray (or should I say El Wray) is a deadly force all to himself, and the diminutive actor sells every moment. It’s a shame that in the years since I haven’t seen any more roles like this from him.

Planet Terror also brings the cameos and brings them strong. I’ve already mentioned Quentin Tarantino popping up (his best line is no doubt, “I’m going to get my dick wet.”), but you also get a characters that references Quentin’s films. Yes once again veteran actor Michael Parks shows up as lawman Earl McGraw (as he also does in Grindhouse’s other half Death Proof). I love it each and every time he shows up in this role, and in my wildest dreams, Quentin will give this man his own film. There’s also a great small part in Planet Terror played by Bruce Willis. While he is barely in the film, I really enjoyed his scenes. The film also boasts parts for Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, Naveen Andrews of Lost, the man himself Tom Savini as a bumbling deputy, as well as Silverado’s Jeff Fahey as BBQ connoisseur J.T., and the original Kyle Reese, Michael Biehn, turns up as the town’s sheriff.

While sporting quite the impressive cast, Rodriguez also brings heaps of style to the film. Of the two parts of Grindhouse, I enjoyed how Robert decided to bring the style to the screen. The best part is probably the “Missing Reel” at the beginning of the third act, but what astounds me is the distressed look of the film. All throughout the flick, it appears to be scratched, warped, and generally in poor shape. While the film doesn’t try to be a period piece (some of the action specifically referring to modern events), it really captures the feeling of watching a film in a run down theater while a bad print unfolds in front of you. I hear that on the Blu Ray release of the film there is an option to turn this effect off, but I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would. As someone who never got a chance to see a film in a real grind house theater, seeing Planet Terror gave me a taste of what it might have been like to do so, and even now seeing it at home on my TV, I still enjoy the feelings that it brings me.

While I have long been a fan of Rodriguez, I find Planet Terror, and the original El Mariachi, to be the films of his I go back to the most. PT is a film that is intended to be mindless fun in the vein that just isn’t made anymore. It’s the kind of over the top popcorn flick I long for during long summers like this one filled with giant robots, re-boots, and neutered horror films. While I have some qualms about the Grindhouse film experience taken as a whole, I have no reservations saying that Planet Terror is a hell of a great ride.

Bugg Rating

4 comments:

  1. I also felt this was the best of the two parts of Grindhouse. Great review.

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  2. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobJuly 18, 2009 at 6:17 PM

    Rose mcgowan was 33 when this film was shot, i wish she`d been 18 instead.

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  3. It wasn't until I saw Planet Terror that I had fallen in love with Rose McGowan. Hot damn!!! Where has she been all my life? (Don't answer that!)

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