My Night at the Grindhouse


This past Friday I checked out the new double feature collaboration between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez- Grindhouse.  Aside from the DVD release of INLAND EMPIRE coming later this year, this was my most anticipated film of 2007.  Although the movie is apparently bombing hard at the box office (I guess Easter and guys’ dicks rotting off on screen don’t really mesh), I thought it was an absolute blast.

So the film starts off with a trailer from Machete, which at first appears to be just another one of Grindhouse’s unique mock trailers.  But oh no, this is a real film.  And it looks completely fucking awesome.  The Robert Rodriguez directed film stars Danny Trejo as an angry Mexican day laborer who goes around blasting people to bits and having sex with lots of women.  Cheech Marin even makes an appearance in the trailer as a priest who splatters a guy’s brains all over the pavement with a pump shotgun.  Machete looks like a wonderful send-up of bad straight-to-video action films with gratuitous violence and nudity.

Planet Terror kicks off the double feature and with good reason.  This film got the theater’s blood pumping with its hilarious over-the-top gore and action.  We have Sayid from Lost playing a scientist who likes to cut people’s balls off and keep them in a jar, Bruce Willis playing a hard-boiled commando that killed Bin Laden, Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer with a rifle attached to her leg, Michael Biehn as a bad ass small-town sheriff, and Quentin Tarantino making a special appearance as a rapist! I could go on, but the point is, it’s a colorful cast.  For Black Eyed Peas haters such as myself, you’ll be happy to know that Fergie gets torn to shreds within the first half hour of the film.  It’s really quite lovely.

Although Planet Terror is a riot, the movie pretty much has no substance whatsoever.  Don’t watch this one expecting anything more than buckets of blood and gross-out moments, or you’ll be disappointed.  The movie to me really feels more like a so-bad-it’s-good 80s film than anything else, with added CGI effects to increase the bombast.  It’s pretty much the same zombie movie we’ve been seeing our whole lives, only this one has a chick mowing shit down with a rifle attached to her leg.  Like I said, Planet Terror starts things off right by titillating the audience with violence, but I’m not sure how well it will hold up to repeated viewings.  Good, but not great.

After Planet Terror concluded, we were treated to the much hyped mock trailers from Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, and Eli Roth.  Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the S.S. introduced us to a 1940s Germany where scantily clad women brand each other with swastikas and conduct experiments to create werewolves.  Nice.  Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright had his trailer for Don’t shown next.  Don’t was quite funny, as it really takes the piss out of old horror film trailers that used excessive amounts of hyperbole.  We even get a special cameo with Nick Frost eating a baby! 

The winner though, was Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving.  I hated Hostel, but Roth absolutely NAILED the look and feel of a 1970s slasher flick here.  In this short trailer we managed to see: a guy get decapitated, a girl get a knife in her vagina (to a huge reaction from the audience), a guy get decapitated while having his dick sucked, a guy get decapitated while his girlfriend makes out with him, a corpse cooked up like a turkey, and a severed head being fucked.  Bravo, Roth.

Okay, so now it was finally time for Death Proof.  This film has proved to be pretty polarizing due to its strange pacing and extensive dialogue.  Some people have said that Tarantino was just showing off by dropping tons of his signature dialogue in this film, but I disagree.  Although it is true that the dialogue doesn’t crackle like it does in other Tarantino films, it serves a purpose.  Grindhouse cinema is known for being low budget, and nothing is lower budget than dialogue.  There are lots of 70s exploitation films that feature storylines and dialogue.  It’s not all just sex and violence, people.  Sometimes it’s people just talking about sex and violence.

I hate to compare, but Tarantino’s film is much closer to the 70s B-movie style than Rodriguez’s film.  The mood, the way it is shot, the absence of special effects, and the ending sequence (oh my fuck, what an ending sequence!) all positively scream cult 70s cinema.  Tarantino’s music selection is wonderful once again, even featuring a track from T-Rex!  Yes, there is a ton of dialogue, but like a great song, Death Proof builds and builds until it reaches one hell of a crescendo.  The last 30 or so minutes of Death Proof is some of the most fun I’ve ever had at the theater.  Watching Kurt Russel’s Stuntman Mike character turn from the vicious predator to the wounded prey was pure brilliance and easily my favorite movie moment so far this year.  And back to the ending sequence, god damn was that satisfying.  The whole theater erupted in cheers during the bloody climax of Death Proof.  I cannot wait to see this film again.

Looking at Grindhouse strictly from a value standpoint, it’s hard to argue against it.  You’re getting two films, a grip of wonderful trailers, and all the general aesthetic trappings of a dingy 70s theater viewing experience.  And that’s it– Grindhouse is really more of an experience than anything else.  It transported me to a time and place that I never knew existed when I was younger.  If we all went to see more films like Grindhouse and less crap like 300, the world would be a better place.  Okay maybe not, but at least we might get better films.


~ by theoberlander on April 8, 2007.

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