Apparently I've got zombies on the brain, so I might as well get this out of my system while I'm at it.
I recently rented Planet Terror from the video store. It's one of the movies from that Grindhouse double feature. You know, the crazy preview with the girl with a gun for a leg? That movie that nobody saw? Yeah, that one.
I'm totally behind the concept. A return to B movies with cheesy one-liners, comical gore, and general overall badness? Sign me up.
There's one catch. You've gotta embrace it. If you're going to be shallow and unintentionally funny (or intentionally unintentional), do it all the way. And make it short. Because the novelty of a movie's B-ness is seldom maintainable for a standard feature length.
But unfortunately Planet Terror is dark and brooding in a way that undermines the awesome ridiculous moments. It's stuck in serious mode for so long that you forget that the movie is supposed to be a caricature, and then when the absurd moments come you're not in the right context to really appreciate them as funny. Editing the movie tighter probably could have alleviated its identity crisis a bit, but I really think the problem came from an unbalanced vision. It stinks of a director taking their craft too serious, even when they're trying to poke fun at it.
I can't help comparing the movie to Shaun of the Dead, which successfully lampooned the zombie genre. To achieve its resolution Shaun drifted into being a real zombie movie by the end, and as a result stopped being funny. But at least it didn't jerk you around back and forth - the comedic pace was steady in the face of zombie realism until the climax.
There are some good moments in Planet Terror. When the movie finally gets around to giving the heroine a gun for a leg, there are some awesome over the top moments. And there's this great part where they cut out some key plot development due to a "missing reel." It's just a shame they didn't do that to more of the movie...