2007’s theatrical release Grindhouse was the co-opted brain child of filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The concept was simple, make a double feature that hearkened back to the days of the old 1970s “grindhouse” films (although these type of films have been around since the 1930s), which were usually low budget exploitation films about bizarre subjects, monsters, violence, sadism, sex, and fast cars. Characteristically, these films had poor production value, abysmal film quality and were usually shown in theaters as a double or triple bill. In tribute to the gory and disturbing films of their youth, Rodriguez and Tarantino masterfully crafted their glowing love letter to the the following style of grindhouse style flick: monster and fast cars respectively. What you will find as you watch Grindhouse is not only a love letter to their favorite type of exploitation flick, but also a genuine appreciation for the way films of that kind used to be seen back in the day. In many respects, Grindhouse is a highly successful attempt to create an anachronistic time capsule that painstakingly recreates the total 1970s grindhouse experience, complete with: horrible film quality, missing film reels, cheesy acting, crazy over the top action, and steamy sensuality.
Rodriquez and Tarantino are no strangers to collaboration or experimentation, as they worked together on the vampire epic From Dusk Till Dawn, and the wonderfully wacky Four Rooms. As the story goes, whilst gathering back in 2003 with some friends to watch a double feature at Tarantino’s home, Rodriguez noted that both he and Tarantino owned the same movie poster for double feature Dragstrip Girl/Rock All Night. The poster started a conversation between the two filmmakers, who both agreed that it would be fun to make a classic grindhouse style double feature. The rest is history. They planned their specific movie, recruited a few talented filmmakers (Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright) to make a handful of faux Grindhouse style coming attractions, and in 2007 released their Magnum Opus on April 6th. Ticket sales for Grindhouse were unfortunately weak. Even though critical reception was favorable (certified fresh at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes), the film did not find an audience at the box office, which is truly unfortunate as it is an incredible set of flicks!
The Grindhouse experience starts with a fake trailer for Machete (Although it was only fake for a short while, as Machete ended up actually being filmed a few years later… with a sequel). Start here with the original faux trailer for Machete which will give you a good impression of what to expect for the next 191 minutes:The first feature length flick is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror – a zombie movie that uses comedy and intense action in a way similar to classic John Carpenter films. It features a tremendous cast including: Bruce Willis, Rose McGowan, Jeff Fahey, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Tom Savini, Stacy Ferguson and Michael Parks. A true ensemble film, each character gets to shine and/or die in a unique and memorable way. The action comes fast, fun and furiously as explosions and zombie body parts start flying everywhere. One of the things that sets this zombie flick apart from others in the crowded undead field is Rodriguez’s trademark humor, inventive camera work and wild special effects. Rodriguez uses everything to make the film work, shom shifts in the film grain/distortion to blood splatters against the camera screen. Gross out effects abound, and there’s enough gore to keep even the most bloodthirsty film goer satiated. A fantastic opening to this double feature, as it takes off at a blistering pace and keeps the thrills and chills coming at a break neck pace.
In-between the double feature is an intermission that comes stacked with a whole host of faux ads and the following faux trailers: Werewolf Women of the S.S., Don’t and Thanksgiving – (FYI, I’m a huge fan of Thanksgiving and wish it had been made into a full length feature film):Now buckle up kiddos, because Quentin Tarantino is about to take you on a white knuckle thrill ride through the mind of a killer that drives a muscle car that is: 100% Death Proof! Death Proof is a deconstruction of the slasher/horror genre, except instead of a blade, the killer uses a car. Compared to Planet Terror, it is far more slowly paced to help create the tension that is necessary for all good thrillers to work. Featuring another phenomenal cast including: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Poitier, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Tracie Thoms and Michael Parks. The dialogue is tight and masterfully delivered by the cast. The movie starts off innocently enough, but as the events begin to unfold, the tension mounts to the point that you would need a Machete to cut it (see what I did there?). The pace for the core plot may move at a deliberately slow pace, but once the cars hit the road, that’s when this film takes off. The end chase sequence is easily in my top 5 car chases in filmed history. It has to be seen to be believed, but trust me it is nothing short of breathtaking. All in all, Death Proof delivers the chills of horror film and the thrills of racing movie, all in a cleverly scripted Tarantino package.
Fun Fact: Michael Parks plays Sheriff Earl McGraw in From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, Planet Terror and Death Proof – which means that all of these stories have taken place within the same bizarre universe. Small world for a small time Texas Sheriff.
Grindhouse is not for everybody, and certainly not everybody will appreciate the ultra-violence and the campy nature of the films. However, if you find yourself in the need for something off the beaten path, that delivers a one of kind cinema experience, than look no further than Grindhouse. Also, if you pick this film up on Blu Ray, you will be treated to audio commentaries, a ton (seriously a heaping amount) of features on both films and the faux trailers, a 10 minute film school, a 10 minute cooking school and soundtrack player. It’s a great deal, and provides hours of additional entertainment.
Check out the trailer to see if you think this bizarre collections of movies and retro exploitation atmosphere is for you: