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29 October, 2007 / Erik

“I’ll Ride with You.”

planetterror.jpgIn the extended version of Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino gives you the “missing reel” absent from the Grindhouse version. In the extended version of Planet Terror, the reel is still missing. It is not just a gag, but an integral part of the writing. It is also an example of the key difference between the two films.

Where Quentin’s movie only superficially plays along with the cheap old movie premise, abandoning it entirely by the half-way point, Rodriguez uses the conceit to it’s fullest. The “old print” quality hides corners he had to cut so Quentin would have money for Death Proof. The film deteriorates when violence is about to occur or the sickos get sicker. That lovable quality of the old Grindhouse movies becomes another tool for Rodriguez and actually makes story points. More importantly, Planet Terror is more alive as a film than Death Proof. The characters pop in a way none of Rodriguez’s previous writing efforts have since El Mariachi. None have the depth Quentin’s tend to have, but they shine in the exact right way for a cheapo exploitive zombie movie.

Others, including Quentin, have mentioned Planet Terror is the lost John Carpenter movie. I’ll go beyond that. This is the first film to ever respond to Carpenter. The dark pressure of a Carpenter film is present, but so is the odd optimism. The response on display here isn’t all that sophisticated, which is fine considering the presentation. Where Carpenter’s the Fog says “You can survive the night,” Planet Terror says, “Fuck yeah, we can!” while shooting four zombies.

Planet Terror is the more successful work in the Grindhouse experiment. While Death Proof might capture the feel of those old movies, Planet Terror captures the thrill of watching.

Which, Rodriguez says, is why they did this in the first place.

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