Grindhouse (2007)


Grindhouse is the experimental new movie that attempts to bring back the style of old 70's gritty exploitation films that consisted of excessive sex, violence, and gore. Supposedly Tarantino got the idea after putting together various exploitation double-features to show in old theaters, and at one point decided to try and bring something like it to mainstream audiences. I've seen a few exploitation films growing up, but never had the full "grindhouse experience" since I wasn't born in the 70's, nor had any theaters like that where I lived.

Tarantino and Rodriguez tried to simulate the look of a grindhouse film by adding scratches, dirt, and dust in post-production (though, Death Proof was much cleaner than Planet Terror), as well as placing cheesy faux trailers before and between the films. These trailers serve as hilarious 3-minute time-wasters before the next film starts, and really shows how cheesy and fun these films can be. Originally Tarantino and Rodriguez were going to be the only ones directing the fake trailers, but after directors like Eli Roth (Hostel), Rob Zombie (Devil's Rejects), and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), showed interest, they couldn't refuse.

The trailers proved to be so popular amongst fans that Rodriguez plans to do a spinoff of his awesome "Machete" trailer starring Danny Trejo. He hopes to have it out on DVD by the time the Grindhouse films are released, which shouldn't be too difficult considering he has shot about 40-minutes worth of footage already. Edgar Wright has also supposedly shown interest in turning his "Don't" trailer into a feature film. It was originally reported that Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof were only going to be features ranging around an hour, but they eventually turned into full-length movies when the two director's would keep adding scenes to the script.

The films were quoted to have only minimal cuts to receive their R-rating; supposedly a mere 20-seconds was cut. Although incredibly gory, it does make sense since some of the gore scenes were masked by intentional film distortion. To keep with the grindhouse experience the films would play as a double-billing here in the US, while foreign countries would have to pay to see them separately and two months apart. They would, however, get to see additional footage that was cut from the US release due to time.


8 - "Planet Terror" By Robert Rodriguez

This was a fun ride and my favorite of the two films. It grabs you from the start and its non-stop action doesn't let you go until "The End" is plastered on the screen. Although the look and feel is very grindhouse, the premise is, however, not your typical grindhouse fair. Basically a group of people and badass characters attempt to survive after a business deal goes wrong, resulting in a deadly chemical to be released into the air, turning people into these puss-faced zombie drones. They're not your typical zombies -- they're strong, fast, and they know how to use tools as weapons, and even some of the recently infected seem to be able to speak and operate almost as if they were still living.

Amongst the madness are our two badass leads "El Wray" (Freddy Rodriguez) -- a character that seems to have a reputation around the town and proves to be a skilled assassin, be-it with a knife or a gun -- and "Cherry" (Rose McGowan) -- the one-legged stripper and love-interest to El Wray, whom later receives a deadly M4 assault rifle to replace her missing leg. As the film progresses we meet other familiar faces, like Michael Biehn as the Sheriff and Tom Savini as a deputy. We also witness a small role by man-hands Fergie (Stacy Ferguson) earlier in the film.

It's amazing how the movie got away with as much as it did. There's a lot of blood and guts flying everywhere, along with ridiculous, but awesome stunts and maneuvers by our leads. A little more than the half-way mark we get a "missing reel" sign that causes some key plot-turns to not be shown. This, of course, was purpsely added by Rodriguez as in the style of the grindhouse experience, where there would be a number of occasions where a film would have a missing reel, though, they normally only cause seconds of the movie to be missed, and not minutes leading to unexplained plot-points. The missing scenes are likely to be in the separate foreign release.

I've heard people say how some movie-goers complained to theater management about how there were scenes missing and the movies looked "old". I find this hilarious, because they obviously had no idea what they were watching to begin with. There are various references to Rodriguez's earlier work throughout the film, namely From Dusk 'Till Dawn -- "El Wray" sound familiar? Rodriguez also has his nieces in the film as the "babysitter twins" -- two hot short tempered Spanish girls that are among the group of survivors fighting for a way out of town. Tarantino also has a small role in the film as a rapist military guy, whose very similar to his Richard Gecko character in Dusk. In the end, Planet Terror proved to be one of the best zombie films I've seen to-date.

7 - "Death Proof" By Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino is said to have gotten the idea of this film after learning about how stunt drivers would "death proof" their car, so they can do head-on collisions and only leave with minor scratches, if anything at all. He wanted to do a slasher film, but use the car as a weapon. Killer-car films have been done in the past, but they were never really used in the way they are in this film. Normally in those films we wouldn't see or know much about the driver, leaving the car mainly to be the villain. In Tarantino's vision we get to know "Stuntman Mike" played by Kurt Russell -- a man who stalks his prey (normally pretty young girls) and picks the right moment to pulverize them with his black 70's Chevy Nova SS (later using a 1969 Dodge Charger).

After crushing the first group of girls with his car, he's free from all charges (since they were intoxicated), and only received minor injuries. He's let loose to search for his next group of victims, which prove to be tougher than first anticipated. Consisting of two stunt-women, a make-up artist, and a small-time actress. The group go in search of a 1970 white Dodge Challenger in the outskirts of Austin to hopefully take it for a test drive and play an adrenaline-filled game of "Ship's Mast", where one is on the hood of the vehicle while going high-speeds, and only holding onto belts strapped to the side-doors to keep from falling.

The game proves to be the perfect opportunity for Stuntman Mike to act out his need to kill by continuously crashing into the women's car and nearly killing Zoe Bell (playing herself) as she holds on for dear life while on the hood. After a long chase through the road the tables turn when (just like in true exploitation films) the women decide to take revenge on Mike and hunt him down and attempt to reel him off the road. With Death Proof we're witness to some of the best car chase scenes in recent filmmaking (in my opinion). Following the action-packed Planet Terror, this film may seem a bit tame. It is a long breather from all the mayhem and zombie carnage, but also at times proves to be a little too slow-paced.

The first 30-minutes is nothing but getting to know each of the girls while they gossip about each other. Normally I have no problem with Tarantino giving the lead characters a lot of time to just talk about whatever, since their conversations are usually witty and sometimes even informative, but I couldn't help but find myself losing interesting half-way through the girl's conversations. It just seemed like I was eavesdropping on a group of high school girls; I just didn't really care for them or what they were talking about. Eli Roth makes his cameo in the film as a young guy hoping to get the girls drunk and getting lucky. After Mike reveals himself to be a maniac, he violently kills the girls, where we get to see each girl have an on-screen death in slow-motion (favorite is the girl getting the tire-to-the-face). By the time this ends, however, we're introduced to another group of girls and have to endure another 20 + minute convo about nothing of particular interest.

It's said that Tarantino originally had Micky Rourke in mind for the role of Stuntman Mike, but I personally thought Kurt did an excellent job. Had Rourke been in the film we wouldn't have gotten as much hilarity that Kurt brought to the character. As with Rodriguez, there are various references to Tarantino's earlier work, from Kill Bill and again with From Dusk 'Till Dawn to name a few. Although the pacing was incredibly slow and I found myself losing interest in the long convos, the film was still good overall and an interesting take on the slasher sub-genre.


There are various other small cameo roles in the fake trailers and throughout the films (Nic Cage one was hilarious!), so keep your eye out. These films are definitely something you'll want to watch again to catch all the little things you may have missed the first time 'round. Although it was an interesting maneuver, releasing the films as a double-bill was not a smart move, at least not on this past weekend. Grindhouse opened during the Easter weekend to poor numbers. The $53-million-dollar film made a disappointing $11-and-a-half-million at the box office, which was about $9-million less than what analysts predicted.

I personally blame it on the horrible release date -- Easter weekend is geared more towards family movie-goers and not those seeking excessive violence and gore (like myself). It could have also been the over 3-hour running time -- something audiences aren't used to sitting through. There's talk of releasing the films separate in a few weeks and with added and missing footage, like with what they're doing in foreign markets. Either way, they will definitely make their money back in foreign sales, and especially when the movies hit DVD later in the year. Expect to be able to purchase them together and separate.

Grindhouse proved to be a masterful piece of creative filmmaking. From the hilarious faux trailers, the fun-ride that was Planet Terror, and to the funny and true-to-exploitation Death Proof, I enjoyed every minute of the movie. Although Tarantino's segment did get a little too slow-paced at times, it kicks into high gear when we witness some of the best car chases I've seen in quite some time. Definitely worth the price of admission, especially when we're getting two movies for the price of one (for the time being anyway).
Grindhouse proved to be a masterful piece of creative filmmaking. From the hilarious faux trailers, the fun-ride that was Planet Terror, and to the funny and true-to-exploitation Death Proof, I enjoyed every minute of the movie. Although Tarantino's segment did get a little too slow-paced at times, it kicks into high gear when we witness some of the best car chases I've seen in quite some time. Definitely worth the price of admission, especially when we're getting two movies for the price of one (for the time being anyway).