Friday, February 5, 2010

Review: "Grindhouse" a Two-Fisted Double Dose

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 72 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Grindhouse (2007)
Running time: 192 minutes
MPAA – R for strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity, and drug use
CINEMATOGRAPHERS/WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror, and fake trailer segment “Machete”) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)
PRODUCERS: Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Erica Steinberg, and Quentin Tarantino
EDITORS: Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) and Sally Menke (Death Proof)


Starring: (Planet Terror) Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, Stacy Ferguson, Nicky Katt, Michael Parks, Quentin Tarantino, and Bruce Willis; (Death Proof) Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Zoe Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sydney Tamiia Portier, Vanessa Ferlito, Rose McGowan, Jordan Ladd, Jonathan Loughran, Eli Roth, and Quentin Tarantino

Directors Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Sin City) and Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) present two-full length movies in their horror double feature, Grindhouse. The film is an ode to theatrical double and triple features shown at grindhouse theatres (called such because these theatres would grind out one movie after another). Most of the films shown at grind houses were exploitation films involving sex, violence, crime, sci-fi/horror, or race (blaxploitation). Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse also includes four fake trailer segments for non-existent movies – an homage to how grindhouse theatres would show many trailers for upcoming films between double features.

The first feature is Rodriguez’s zombie horror flick, Planet Terror, in which a small Texas town finds itself inundated by fellow townsfolk who have mutated into flesh-hungry zombies. A mysterious trucker named Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and a go-go dancer named Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), who had her right leg ripped off by zombies, join forces to fight the monstrous invasion. Wray eventually replaces Cherry’s missing leg with an automatic rifle, and the pair lead an group of accidental warriors in a bid to stop Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), a rogue military officer, from making the all-ready dire situation worse.

The second feature film is Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, in which Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a scar-faced rebel-type, stalks college-age beauties in a small Texas town. Popular DJ, Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Portier) and her pals Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) don’t know that a killer has his eyes on them. Stuntman Mike is really a murderer, who uses his muscle car as his weapon. Stuntman Mike, however, eventually meets his match when he attacks a trio of women who work as film crewmembers. On the back roads of Tennessee, Stuntman Mike engages in a duel to the death with Kim (Tracie Thoms), Zoe (Zoe Bell, a real life stuntwoman), and Abernathy (Rosario Dawson).

Although I never experienced grindhouse theatres, I am somewhat familiar with exploitation films. In fact, I’ve seen enough of those to know that well before Grindhouse, Rodriguez and Tarantino’s films were capturing the vibe of 1970’s exploitation cinema.

With the sound dropping out or fading, a scratchy picture, bad splicing, etc., Rodriguez’s Planet Terror looks like a movie played from a print that’s been dragged across the country. Besides that, it’s a damn fine sci-fi/horror movie – certainly on par with Rodriguez’s late 90’s teen horror flick, The Faculty, although not quite as good as From Dusk ‘til Dawn. It’s one of the best zombie films to come around since Resident Evil kick-started this horror sub-genre back to life in 2002.

Planet Terror is a hoary old beast of a movie, created by modern movie science, but formed and shaped with an eye on the excesses of 70’s cinema. It’s violence and gore is a work of art and a labor of love. Plus, it’s damn funny when you get down to it, with a mixture of social satire (especially the fake trailer segment “Machete,”) and movie parody with a touch of irony.

Tarantino’s Death Proof is the better of the two films, but not by much. It was born from Tarantino’s love for late 60’s/early 70’s car chase films like Bullitt and Vanishing Point. Whereas Rodriguez showed his love for exploitation movies by making one that looks like an exploitation flick, Tarantino borrows from those films and makes something that is both technically and artistically superior. It’s like Steven Spielberg directing a slasher horror movie.

As is usual with Tarantino films, the dialogue is good, but, here, the action sequences with the cars make Death Proof. In fact, that first car crash is unforgettable – a stroke of genius on Tarantino’s part for the way he executed it. Tarantino insisted that there by no CGI for the car chase sequences in Death Proof, yet the first car crash and the long chase sequence that ends the film are breathtaking and far scarier than even the cool CGI-enhanced chases in films like The Matrix Reloaded and Bad Boys II.

Ultimately Grindhouse is a gift to people who obsess about movies from two guys who obsess about movies and movie making. I left the theatre thinking that I owed them something more than just the cost of a ticket for the joy they gave me.

8 of 10

NOTES: The creators of three of the four fake trailer segments are as follows:
Writer/Producer/Director: Eli Roth (fake trailer segment “Thanksgiving)
Writer/Director: Edgar Wright (fake trailer segment “Don’t”)
Writer/Director: Rob Zombie (fake trailer segment “Werewolf Women of the S.S.”)
Writer: Jeff Rendell (“Thanksgiving”)
Producers: Daniel S. Frisch and Gabriel Roth (“Thanksgiving”)

Saturday, May 05, 2007



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