Grindhouse is Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's tribute to cheesy horror/thriller double features from the 70's. Rodriguez gives us Planet Terror, and Tarantino provides Death Proof, all in one film, with trailers to fake 70's-style productions in between to aid the illusion. The filmmakers complete the illusion by sprinkling their films with the visual and aural pops and imperfections that were common when watching a bad print in a cheap movie house. The whole idea was done in good fun, although the viewer needs to be ready for the long haul. Apparently not many were, since the movie is shortly going to be released in its two separate components.
Planet Terror is the only one with zombies, but for the sake of completeness in my review I should mention that it's also much superior to the other. The rating given for this review applies only to Planet Terror, however.
If all you've seen of Rodriguez's work is this film and Sin City, you might think that his ideal woman is one that can kill someone in one of 17 ways and then do a striptease. This hearkens back to female action stars from the 70's: women that were overtly sexual and who could also kick some ass when necessary.
The heroine in this case is Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), a stripper with dreams of being a doctor. On the night she quits her job, a toxic gas at a nearby army base is released into the atmosphere, converting the entire nearby population into zombies with the exception of those who are naturally immune. Cherry happens to be one of those people, along with her ex-boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodríguez), the sheriff (Michael Biehn), a doctor fleeing her husband (Marley Shelton), and various others. As those still alive gradually find each other throughout the film, it becomes clear who has the grit to survive and who does not. Cherry in particular comes to her full potential in an unusual way.
Rodriguez wrote a nice, tight script, with emphasis on the action but just the right amount of character development to keep you caring about what happens to the fighters. The zombies are there not as the main plot element but as the impetus and backdrop for the plot, allowing for a richer story. The effects were excellent, perhaps too much so if he was really trying to imitate a cheap 70's horror flick. Even the scenes that were gratuitous didn't seem gratuitous; they were the kind that make you squirm and then laugh about it.
There were parts that were kind of confusing, and some of the acting was not so great, but overall I thought it was a good film. For all the zombie lovers out there, I would recommend waiting until it's been separated from its twin, though, and seeing it on its own. Hopefully when the DVD comes out they'll still let you see the fake trailers.