Follow TV Tropes


Film / Planet Terror

Go To

Planet Terror is the more action-oriented half of Grindhouse. A 2007 Robert Rodriguez film in which a military transaction goes awry and an experimental poison gas is released on a small town in rural Texas, turning the unsuspecting civilians into bloodthirsty zombies. The only people who can stop them are a Go-Go-Dancer with a gun for a leg, her expert gunman ex-boyfriend, a pair of crazy babysitter twins, a shellshocked doctor, a Jerkass cop, a crusty sheriff, a scientist obsessed with testicles, and many other trailer-park freaks from deep in the Heart of Texas.

Humanity's last tropes...resting on a high-power machine gun are:

  • Accidental Suicide: Dakota gives her young son a loaded gun to defend himself against the zombie horde, but he accidentally shoots himself in the head.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: A weird case. An alternate cut of the film exists where Tony survives. The reason Dakota runs to the second helicopter is to ensure a seat for Tony. In the final cut, where he has died, she has no practical reason to run to the second helicopter.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Dakota goes from meek nurse that suffers several agonizing indignities to a woman that uses a pistol-sized syringe launcher to kill a soldier.
  • Advertised Extra: Parodied. Bruce Willis is front and centre on the poster, despite having barely any screen time. This parodies a B-movie tradition of casting a big name in a small part and then hyping them up as if they were the star. Note that Willis's character Muldoon rarely shares the frame with another actor, giving the impression that his shots were all filmed separately in one go.
  • After the End: The epilogue... and it's a big "maybe". On one hand, there's a lot of survivors and life is pretty idyllic for them. On the other hand, there are a lot of zombies (but if they decompose as fast as the soldiers did, it's a matter of time).
  • Ambiguously Trained: El Wray is an expert with guns and blades and is the best fighter of the whole group, but the Sheriff refuses to give him a gun because of his criminal shenanigans in the time he'd met him. Once the plot re-starts after apologizing for the missing reel, El Wray has given the sheriff his secret past (but the audience doesn't gets to hear it) and the sheriff is incredibly awed by him ("I knew your name was 'El Wray', but I didn't knew you were that 'El Wray'",) hands him a firearm and lets him carry on. His interaction with the colonel afterwards implies that Wray was part of some kind of black-ops division or at least saw military service.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Cherry loses a leg pretty early on. Part of her own Adrenaline Makeover is actively weaponizing the improvized prosthetic legs she's given throughout the film.
  • Arc Words: "Two against the world"
  • Artistic License – Biology: The infected “sickos” (this movie’s version of zombies, essentially) suffer severe tissue damage, evidenced by the visible wounds and heavy bleeding - but the first patient we see in the movie does not display any other symptoms, and is not even in pain, as Dr. Block is poking and probing his arm and later his tongue. The tissue of his tongue even seems to have been almost liquified, and gangrene has already set in in his arm as well - which should cause extreme pain in itself, and the feeling of his tongue being covered in blisters should be extremely uncomfortable and panic inducing, but the patient is largely unphased.
    • Later on we see Quentin Tarantino’s character (The Rapist), who stops inhaling the gas which is meant to keep the symptoms in check. The first time he stops, his face quickly becomes bubbly with blister-like formations appearing on his cheek, but when he again inhales the gas, these are instantly healed. Later on, when he prepares to rape Cherry, he also stops inhaling the gas, this time for a longer period. Everyone else in the room is horrified at the sight of Gorn his genitals literally melting into a blackish red sludge and dripping down, but again, the character itself is unphased by the damage, and intends proceed with the rape - which is exactly in character for him.
    • Near the end of the movie we see Abby and El Wray confronting LT Muldoon (Bruce Willis), who explains his actions, referring to the fact that he and his soldiers need to keep inhaling the gas to keep the symptoms in check. For the lenght of his explanation, he also stops inhaling the gas, and in about a minute or so, the deformation is so severe, he becomes an amorphous blob, not even resembling a human being. Even during this horrible experience, he continues his monologue in the exact same tone and style as he began, implying that the area of his throat and mouth forming speech are not affected by the deformity at all, and it seems he also doesn’t really mind what exactly is happening to his body anymore - of course this could be because his gig was up, and he most likely knew he won’t make it out of that room alive at that point. The above examples could be explained by the gas numbing the patients, or even that it completely shuts off their perception of pain, but the lack of awareness and understanding of the severe damage to their bodies suggests that the filmmakers invoked this trope as biology should not get in the way of characterization.
  • Asshole Victim: Dr. Block and The Rapist.
  • Attempted Rape: Guess what The Rapist tries to do to Cherry.
    The Rapist: You gave me some wood, now I'm going to give you some wood!
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Deputy Tolo is most definitely this.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Cherry, whose opening striptease focuses heavily on her long legs... one of which later gets torn off by zombies. She makes an upgrade, though.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "El Wray" is the phonetic English pronunciation of "El Rey"=The King. May double as a Shout-Out to Elvis Presley, and as a Punny Name.
  • Bittersweet Ending: DC-2 spreads around the world and no one has any way of finding a cure but Cherry is leading survivors to humanity's last foothold on the Mexican coast.
  • Body Horror: By the buckets. Infectees' bodies are covered in huge gangrenous pustules. Also, The Rapist and Lt. Muldoon when they're not inhaling the gas.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • Tony blowing his own head off, seemingly by accident.
    • Poor, poor Abby is killed this way.
    • Muldoon says he delivered one to Osama bin Laden, along with a shot to the chest. Back in 2007, it was kinda funny; in 2011, it became really funny because that's how bin Laden really died.
  • Brain Food: The zombie-like mutants eat Fergie's brain, prompting the gag, "Looks like we've got a no-brainer." Similarly, a repeated line throughout the film is "I'm gonna eat your brain and gain your knowledge," first said as a small boy is playing with his action figures, although by the time Josh Brolin starts saying it, it gets creepy/hilarious.
  • Bury Your Gays: Tammi is Dakota's lesbian lover on the sly, and ends up getting eaten by zombies (first casualty on the film, even!)
  • Catchphrase:
  • Celebrity Casualty: Muldoon says he killed Osama Bin Laden (who was alive but in hiding at the time the film was made).
  • Celebrity Resemblance: One of the evil soldiers (played by Quentin Tarantino) makes a point about how Cherry (Rose McGowan) resembles Ava Gardner. He also threatens her that if she continues to look at him with contempt that she "won't look like Ava Gardner no more."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Cherry's impressive flexibility, among other "useless skills" of hers. Lampshaded early on by Dakota saying (while she's talking to Cherry) that her dad once told her everything anybody learned throughout his life would always have a moment where it came useful.
  • Combat Stilettos: Cherry, on her good leg. She stabs a zombie's eye off with it at one point.
  • Crisis Point Hospital: El Wray notices the hospital is becoming this when he brings Cherry to the emergency room, dozens of listless people sitting around with pustules and lesions sprouting from their skin; it's a sign that the DC-2 bioweapon is affecting the town. Once people start turning, it doesn’t take long before the hospital is thrown into blood and chaos.
  • Death by Cameo: Sure enough, Quentin Tarantino has a few minutes of screentime, in which he suffers a gruesome death. His character had it coming, though.
  • Death of a Child: In one of the film's few genuinely horrific scenes. Robert Rodriguez said he used his own kid, Rebel, as Tony because he didn't want to 'kill' anyone else's kid. He also made a less-violent cut of the film where Tony survives the movie for Rebel to watch.
  • Defiant to the End: "Paramedic 2" curses angrily while getting eaten alive by two Sickos.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Played by Robert Rodriguez' son, Rebel. Sadly, he unintentionally shoots himself in the face.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: For a moment. The Rapist announces his intention to rape Cherry, much to the surprise of his collegaue, who quickly points out that Cherry has only one leg. The response? "Easier access". This elicits a "Good point" from Rapist #2, as he joins in on the planned action.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: The story not only happens in Texas, J.T.'s Catchphrase is "best in Texas".
  • Exact Words: J.T. mentions that never will his brother share his BBQ recipe, even if he is dying in his brother's arms. When they are both mortally wounded, J.T. shares his recipe and his brother dies in his arms.
  • Explosion Propulsion: Cherry performs a live-action "Rocket Jump" with her leg-mounted grenade launcher on the climactic fight.
  • Eye Scream: Happens a lot, with anything from bullets to knives to chair legs to stilleto heels to needles to zombie goo.
  • Faking the Dead: JT, with sausage. Played for Laughs
  • Fingore:
    • Poor, poor Dakota Block.
    • Deputy Tolo gets his ring finger bitten off by a zombie. He puts the ring on his middle finger afterwards.
  • For Science!: Abby.
    "Science comes first but business comes a close fucking second."
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Dr. William Block. And keep in mind, that was before he was turned into a zombie. You gotta admit, those specs look good though.
  • Gatling Good: In the last scene of the film, Cherry has attached a minigun to her leg stump.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: "Goddamnit, girls. If you're gonna do that, do it on stage!"
  • Godzilla Threshold: In the wake of the sicko outbreak, the police force breaks out the "All or Nothing" box, which involves giving everyone a badge, a gun, and a deputy rank. Though they still won't let El Wray use a gun.
  • Gorn: Hoo boy. Any scene with zombies in it is bound to be messy.
  • Grammar Nazi: Tony corrects his mother that the plural of "octopus" isn't "octopuses" but rather "octopi". Actually, both are correct.
  • Groin Attack: Abby seems fond of them, cutting off people's balls and keeping them in a jar. And the rapist soldier's testicles actually melt off.
  • Hand on Womb: A rare non-mother example. As Wray lays dying after being attacked by a sicko, he consoles a devastated Cherry by assuring her she won't be alone after he dies by rubbing her stomach and repeating to her one last time "I never miss."
  • Helicopter Blender: Skip does this to an incoming horde of Sickos, who have a Mass "Oh, Crap!" and become the pursued.
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket: Cherry wears El Wray's leather jacket, much to his chagrin since she left him and he was searching for it for months.
  • Hollywood Healing: The soldiers are inhaling gas to keep their symptoms in check, and it heals already formed wounds (bubbly skin on their faces), in a few seconds.
  • Homage: The action may be all Robert Rodriguez, but the horror suspense elements, down to the synthesizer music, is pure John Carpenter.
  • I'm Melting!: The Rapist decomposing into a Sicko makes his body all goopy and stringy like a worse version of Emil Antonowsky, his genitals especially melt off of him to the horror of the people present.
  • Insistent Terminology: Cherry doesn't like being called a "stripper", she refers to herself as a "go-go dancer".
  • Ironic Echo
    • "I'm gonna eat your brain and gain your knowledge."
    • "It's go-go, not cry-cry."
    • "No dead bodies for Da-Da tonight."
      • "What did I tell you, Tony? Don't point the gun at yourself. Didn't I tell you that?"
  • The Jaywalking Dead: A small caravan of vehicles rips through several zombies, and one unfortunate dog. Also, as a possible subversion of the trope, earlier in the film, El Wray swerves to avoid a man he doesn't know is a zombie, ultimately crashing his car.
  • Leg Cannon: Cherry Darling had her leg eaten by zombies, and replaced it with an M-4 assault rifle, which she used to kick much ass. And then later, she had that replaced with a full-on minigun. It's a bit ambiguous how she fires it, though, since we never see her reaching down to pull a trigger.
  • Lost in Transmission: The audience sees "MISSING REEL." During the missing reel, it's implied, we'd have gotten to see Rose McGowan totally naked, plus the entire plot surrounding Wray's mysterious origins would have been explained. And when the film comes back, everything's on fire, and we'll never know why. Possibly the best cut in movie history.
    • There's a Meta-Gag in there as well. A presumed urban legend (re-told in the novel Fight Club) is that older movies would have their nude scenes cut shorter and shorter as projectionists removed a few choice frames for their collection. Notably, all of the sexier bits seem a lot more grainy, as if they've been watched more than the rest of the film.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: When people are shot in this movie, they emit absolutely ridiculous explosions of blood.
  • Made of Plasticine: Everyone, human and Sicko alike.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: "Useless talent # __"
  • Male Gaze: In Cherry Darling's go-go dance. Up until the film "melts" and the scene becomes missing, the sex scene with El Wray had plenty of titillation, too.
  • Meaningful Echo: El Wray says "I never miss" a few times through the film as a Badass Boast. The last time he says it, it's to assure Cherry that he's sure he got her pregnant when they had sex mid-film.
  • Murder by Mistake: Tolo accidentally shoots a non-infected patient outside the hospital mistaking her for a Sicko.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Subverted with Dakota after she gives her son a loaded gun to defend himself with, only to have him shoot himself in the head. She then starts cradling the kill and when her husband shows up, she shrieks blame at him for it.
  • No Name Given:
    • We don't really know what Cherry's real name is. "Palomita" was just something Wray gave her.
    • Also El Wray's name itself, as per his Mysterious Past.
  • Noodle Incident: The "missing reel." Cut to the diner on fire. Sheriff Hague had been shot. Dakota and her father, the babysitters, the go-go dancing club owner and some of the dancers somehow made it there. And El Wray has told them his Mysterious Past, which somehow has made Hague become incredibly respectful of him ("I knew you were "El Wray", but I didn't thought you were that "El Wray"") and he has no problem giving him a gun afterwards ("Give him a gun. Give him all the guns.")
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Zombies in this movie are referred to as "Sickos."
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Sickos fall into the Technically Living Zombie category, and their bite can't infect those with a natural immunity to their virus (such as Cherry Darling and Tolo), however it is revealed that it's possible to contain the effects of the virus by inhaling more DC-2, which is what Muldoon and his infected soldiers do to retain the ability to communicate among themselves and use guns. The Sickos also seem more intelligent than typical zombies, as Cherry's attackers run away from El Wray shooting at them and the mutated soldiers try to avoid an incoming death by Helicopter Blender. The Sickos were inspired by the irradiated people from 1980 Nightmare City.
  • Pair the Spares: Hinted at the end of movie, with Cherry and Dakota .
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: El Wray is just about the shortest person in the whole movie. And yet, many an ass is kicked.
  • Rasputinian Death: The Rapist (played by Tarantino) tries to have his way with Cherry. He is smashed over the head with a table leg, impaled in the eye by the leg's broken end, has his privates melt off from the infection taking over him, has a syringe launched into his other eye, melts into an inhuman monster, pukes up his guts, then finally is shot in the crotch with a grenade launcher. Good grief.
  • Rated M for Manly: Zombies, buckets of blood and gore and scantily clad go-go dancers. It does indeed qualify.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Dr. Dakota Block gives a gun to her child, when she leaves him alone in a car. He shoots himself in the face (accidentally or not) within a few seconds of her leaving the car.
  • Rocket Jump: Cherry does this with her grenade launcher leg. One of the only non-videogame characters to perform this move.
  • Rule of Cool: Zombie films are a dime a plenty, but the moment you have stuff like people mowing them down with a drive-by riding a motorcycle custom-made by Jesse James himself in thanks for an incredibly awesome BBQ meal and the girl on the back using a machine-gun that is an improvised prosthetic leg to do said shooting, you know that you're on this territory.
  • Running Gag: "Best barbecue in Texas" by J.T. (it swings in and out of being a funny gag because of his feud with Hague).
  • The Savage South: Zombies everywhere in good old Texas!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When the hospital eventually fills up with patients displaying the body-horrific symptoms of the disease, Dr. William Block and his co-worker decide it's time to leg it.
    Dr. Felix: Viral infections. They came pouring in. Some are rapidly developing coliform lesions... highly contagious. What do you think?
    Dr. William Block: Self preservation comes to mind.
    Dr. Felix: Yeah, let's get out of here.
  • Secret Ingredient: Throughout the first half of the film, JT tries to find the perfect BBQ sauce recipe. Before he tastes a sample, it gets mixed with some of his blood, leading him to correctly deduce from it that all that was missing was a little bit of salt (since human blood tastes salty).
  • Serious Business: Barbecue.
  • Sexophone: Planet Terror's opening theme, played over Cherry's go-go dance routine. Later spoofed by the saxophonist playing it in the prison cell.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The military humvee Abby uses to escape has "Black Flight" written on its side, which was the name of the Special Forces unit Snake Plissken served in.
    • El Wray (El Rey = The King), to Elvis.
    • The infected patient that smears pus on Dr. Block resembles the poster artwork of Dawn of the Dead (1978)
    • El Wray refers to his truck as "the Killdozer".
    • Before getting shot by El Wray and Abby, Lt. Muldoon horribly mutates ending up resembling the Elephant Man.
    • In an episode of Charmed Paige (played by Rose McGowan) sighs that she can't dream about someone "like Quentin Tarantino". In her first major project after the show ended, here she kills Tarantino. As she was filming parts of Grindhouse in between the final season of the show, it's possible it was written in as a direct nod.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: All of Lt. Muldoon's men, specially the one credited as The Rapist, played by Quentin Tarantino.
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: Abby, or he would have been if he hadn't gotten killed. This is lampshaded in the movie.
    Cherry Darling: I don't suppose anyone else here is a bio-chemical engineer?
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Cherry's baby from Wray.
  • Smoking Barrel Blowout: Requires some flexibility, as it's Cherry blowing on the automatic rifle attached to her leg-stump.
  • Squick: In-Universe, the reaction of Cherry, Dr. (Dakota) Block and even a fellow soldier when The Rapist pulls his pants down and his genitalia begins melting into a black sludge.
  • Staking the Loved One: Earl does this to his wife. Downplayed with Dr. Block—neither Dakota nor her father Earl loved him by the time they blow him away.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The sheriff's car even explodes spontaneously for no reason whatsoever.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Subverted: The groups' only way of escape is via a helicopter on the other side of a military base filled with zombified soldiers. Abby (Naveen Andrews, aka Sayid from Lost) sternly says "Follow me!"; the music starts pumping, you think you're in for the Crowning Moment of Awesome... and as soon as he peers around the corner, his head gets blown to pieces.
  • The Unreveal: Due to the missing reel, El Wray's past is never revealed. We never find out why he's not allowed to hold a gun, and we don't know why the sheriff suddenly changed his mind.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Cherry in a big way. Goes from potential zombie-fodder moody girl in distress to Handicapped Badass One-Woman Army that has a machine-gun for a fake leg.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Muldoon just wanted to find a cure for himself and his men. Wray acknowledges this by saluting Muldoon for his service to his country, just before shooting him.
  • Unusual Weapon Mounting: Gun for a leg, anyone?
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Dakota Block's mascara is runny for a good chunk of the film. Justified by her massive crying (because of her leaving her abusive husband, said husband sticking her hands with anesthetic-filled needles, breaking her wrist, her son accidentally blowing his brains out...)
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Pretty much goes without saying that the gas spread throughout the atmosphere is bad news.


Video Example(s):


Planet Terror

DC-2 spreads around the world and no one has any way of finding a cure but Cherry is leading survivors to humanity's last foothold on the Mexican coast.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / BittersweetEnding

Media sources: