Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up together for a
Grindhouse, double feature and takes us back to the high octane
world of car chases, blood and gore, T and A and a pure love of
exploitation. Rodriguez tells
the tale of what happens when zombies take over a small town and
Tarantino mixes it up with a Tarantinoesque brand of fast talking
women and a psycho stuntman who uses his car as a deadly weapon.
It’s Planet Terror and Death Proof baby… with a few
shocking, action packed trailers in between.
I was lucky enough to be of an age where I experienced the slasher craze in the late Seventies and early Eighties. I vividly remember dragging my mom to take her way too young son to see “Final Exam”, “My Bloody Valentine”, “Happy Birthday to Me” and every other “Friday the 13th” or “Halloween” rip-off to hit the theatres. Where I grew up they didn’t have too many “Grindhouse” theatres but thanks to video, I was able to catch up on some really brilliant sleaze from “I Spit on Your Grave” to “Black Mama, White Mama” and many, many more.
So I can’t tell you how thrilled I was at the idea of two directors taking on this kind of project and possibly recreating that experience. The old movie advertisements for snacks, the deadly serious warnings that viewer discretion was advised and all the other attributes to seeing a double feature and shocking the hell out of an audience. With this said, there was a massive build up of hype behind the film. With over the top posters featuring Rose McGowan and her high-power machine gun leg or that bad ass set of wheels with a skull and “Kurt Russell” above the title. This is a lot to live up to folks and frankly… there is a whole lot to be excited about.
With “Planet Terror”, Robert Rodriguez turns up the energy level to the max. He gets the engines revved up right before the fantastic opening credits with the coming attraction for “Machete” and then… It’s zombie time. The opening dance number with Rose McGowan looking as amazing as possible is pure trash theatre, in a good way. All the characters here fit the type that you would normally see in this kind of movie with one exception… these folks can act. This is a gore-filled ride that doesn’t let up at all, it only gets more and more twisted as the infection spreads. Played somewhere between “Night of the Living Dead” and “Re-Animator”, but with a highly stylized and perfectly Eighties feel.
The film looks so much like you are watching it with sticky floors and the constant hushing of the theatre employees flashing there lights at rowdy teenagers. The film print “burns”, scratches and grain fill the screen and it feels like the movie reel is on its last legs. And the beauty of this is that it is made for audiences to scream at the characters, to laugh, vomit and cry because of the shocking images on display. There is fun to be had here, especially when some taboos of modern cinema are so blatantly exploited. After this, you will be pumped up and ready to scream and yell and have your date burying her head in your lap (or his it that’s your thing).
Once Planet Terror ravaged through my brain, I experienced a few more Coming Attractions including the Rob Zombie directed “Werewolf Women of the S.S.”, Edgar Wright’s “DON’T SCREAM” and Eli Roth’s twisted holiday themed shocker, “Thanksgiving”. This is one intermission you will not want to miss. The laughs came fast and furious with each and every trailer. I want to see these movies. I would pay to see each and every one of them, including Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete” which I mentioned earlier. If you haven’t seen these yet, wait. See them as part of the Grindhouse experience. This is a blast. And luckily, we are reminded to go get some snacks.
Finally, the last piece from Tarantino, “Death Proof” is on display. And here is where the problems lie. This is a cross breed of drive-in genre’s including car-chase, revenge flicks and a little bit of slasher thrown in. Except here, the weapon of choice is a car. And Kurt Russell continues to add another twisted character to his resume. Yet for all the action that flooded “Planet Terror”, this is a very dialogue heavy piece with very little gore, aside from one scene, and only two or three moments of real excitement. But for some reason, it still holds up reasonably well, as it keeps you wondering when the shite is going to hit the fan.
Even though I enjoyed “Death Proof”, it meandered with scenes of chicks talking about whatever for up to fifteen minutes or so. They talk about sex, they talk about movies and many other things that might make some head for the restroom (the whole experience is over three hours). But it still worked for me on many levels; the early scenes with the girls reminded me of “Last House on the Left”, yet with snappy dialogue and a wonderfully sexy performance from Sydney Tamiia Poitier as sharp tongued Jungle Julia. It also features a breakout performance for stuntwoman Zoe Bell playing, well, stuntwoman Zoe Bell. I loved the fact that Tarantino just stuck to doing a non-CGI, stunt driven slice of road flick meets psycho. But I think people may find this to be a let down after the hyper-adrenaline rush of Rodriguez’s work.
So worth the wait or not…? Hell yeah! This is a twisted tribute to the red-headed bastard step-child of cinema. It won’t please everybody with it’s over-the-top blood spewing, sore popping, flesh eating first segment to the dialogue driven rants about f*cking and whether one girl would give a lap dance or another should give a guy head. It’s rude and crude and sadly a bit dragged out with the vehicular horror of “Death Proof” but on a whole, it is an amazing experience that had me at “Machete”.
You have Rose McGowan in a star-making performance as Cherry Darling. You got Kurt Russell as an off-center and surprisingly funny psycho with a love for speed. This is a love letter to the movies your parents didn’t want you to see. And even if Tarantino lost me to a point, I still enjoyed the complete experience of “Grindhouse”. I want filmmakers to take a chance and do what ever the hell they want to do. Break the rules, or just go for the throat and offend a few people on the way. Whether you are going to blow your load over the bloody action of Terror or the dialogue driven Proof, there is something for everyone…except those who are easily offended. Rev up your engines and grab your needles, get ready for Grindhouse.
score: 8 out of 10. --