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Grindhouse film review

From The Quentin Tarantino Archives

WARNING: The following review may contain spoilers and explicit language, as well as geek drooling, be aware.

THE QUENTIN TARANTINO ARCHIVES PRESENTS

The Exclusive Grind House review

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Equipped with a press brochure that probably holds as much information about the film and its cast as is in my head already, I take a seat in a fully packed auditorium, waiting for the Grind House experience to begin. How long have I waited for this. All the excitement that had built up to this point, all the research about exploitation films, adding to my already existing love of the genre, it has culminated in the anticipation of GRIND HOUSE, Robert Rodriguez' and Quentin Tarantino's double feature, that will tear you in two. The lights go out, and I get ready for the “feature presentation”.

First,
Machete, an exploitation trailer shot by Rodriguez that is so cheesy and yet so great I almost cracked up laughing. Jeff Fahey, who would just a few minutes later play crazy “J.T.” in Planet Terror, plays a politician who pays an assassin (Danny Trejo) to kill a Senator. But he is double crossed, and he is not happy about it. And a roaring rampage of revenge ensues, including machetes, motorcycles, gatling guns and topless women. I really would like to see that film made. It would be “Knives” from Desperado meets Mark Wahlberg's character from “Shooter”. Exciting stuff, and Robert is really serious about making this film, the idea had been in development for a long long time. Reading the Grind House companion book (review later this week), you can really see this going somewhere pretty soon.

Then,
Planet Terror

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Robert Rodriguez delivers a no-holds-barred thrill ride, that is as exciting as it sounded in the trailers.

A handful of individuals end up fighting hoards of sickos in a little place in Texas. While Cherry (Rose McGowan) is on her way home after quitting her job as a go-go dancer, military trucks pass her. They are headed for the nearby military base, where a biological weapons deal goes wrong, and the bacteria gets released into the air, and the scientist who tried to sell the material (Naveen Andrews) escapes unharmed from the Colonel's (Bruce Willis) troopers. Cherry stops at J.T.'s (Jeff Fahey) BBQ place, where she runs into her ex-boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez). In town, Doc Block (Josh Brolin) and his adulterous (and “part-time lesbian”) wife Dakota (Marley Shelton), an anesthesiologist, suddenly get an unusual number of sick people into the ER. Dakota's former girlfriend (“Fergie”) comes into town, but ends up as roadkill, eaten by sickos, just as Wray and Cherry make their way to town, hardly surviving an accident after running over a sicko. Cherry ends up in the hospital with her right leg amputated, and eventually replaced by a machine gun designed by Wray. While chaos rises, the protagonists are being drawn together in a fight against hoards of infected sickos, who raise hell in the little town. Everybody escapes to J.T.'s place, from where they fight their way out of town, until they get quarantined by the military, but that is not their rescue, and while the epidemic ravages, the heroes try to escape from “Planet Terror”....

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Planet Terror is like John Carpenter meets George Romero. A town invaded by sickos, unlikely heroes, creepy music, sinister villains, unbelievable violence and action. Planet Terror delivers. It is an over-the-top actioner from beginning to end, with characters better than any zombie movie has ever seen, but with all the action and cheesy plot turns that you would expect. Rodriguez manages to cram his 80-minute “gore-ball comedy”, as he calls his genre invention, full with awesome little scenes between the main characters Cherry and Wray, great scenes between the Sheriff (Michael Biehn) and his deputies (Tom Savini and Carlos Gallardo, the original El Mariachi), the crazy relationship between Dr Block and Dakota (and her dad), the funny J.T. who is the Sheriff's brother, the sinister military Colonel so perfectly portrayed by Bruce Willis, his rapist Lieutenant (Quentin Tarantino) and the crazy scientist. All those characters, as random as they may seem at first, make up a great overall group of remarkable people who add the spice to the action. Cherry's machine-gun leg, Wray's awesome fighting skills, the syringe-wielding Dakota. At no point seem the characters mere gap-fillers. Everybody has his or her place in Robert's little sicko planet, and he manages to send them through one hell of an action-packed journey, full of explosions, severed limbs, disgusting make-up effects, crazy action, horrible life-and-death situations and an escape to Mexico.

The movie looks like the worst print of a zombie film you will ever see. There are scratches, dirt, speckles, discoloration, sound mishaps, jump-cuts, missing “reels”, missing frames and at one point the film seems to be stuck in the projector and burns up in front of the audience's eyes! As usual, the film is chock-full with Rodriguez showing off his talent as a director. The action scenes are original and creative, over the top crazy and spiced up with gimmicks. The music he composed sounds like it was composed by John Carpenter and adds to the weird atmosphere.

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Taken as it is, Planet Terror does what not so many movies have done in my recent memory: it entertains. And oh boy, that from beginning to end. You will not like the film if you are out for a serious film with logic, high production “value” or an oscar-winning script. But you will love the fucking shit out of this film if you want to have fun at the movies. You will get your action, you will get your foul language, you will get your blood and gore, you will get hot chicks to look at and soldiers shooting sickos, Wray riding on a kiddie motorcycle, explosions and love scenes. Everything you'd expect from an exploitation flick that delivers. You will sit in a packed auditorium with people to the right and left of you going wild over what they see on the screen. People will laugh, cry, choke and applaud. It is that much fun. The downside? For one thing the double-feature version of Planet Terror is indeed a little short clocking at around 80 minutes, but I think it works perfectly and there will always be the DVD version and the version released seperately, which will offer 20 more minutes of outrageous footage. At some points I wished the film would be a little less over-the-top, like when Cherry is flying through the air, or when unbelievable shit happens to Quentin's character. Those were scenes where I though “awesome shit, but really... haha oh my god, this is too hilarious”. Planet Terror is a grade A b-movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat, eating your popcorn with satisfaction, kicking your best friend into his ribs screaming “haha did you see that?” and when it's over, you will look forward to taking another bunch of your buddies to see it again.

8/10

Just when you calmed down....
The Intermission
After Planet Terror's over-the-top cheesy end that got even more laughs, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright and Rob Zombie cross the Is and dot the Ts with their exploitation trailers. Those are so hilarious and outrageously funny and cruel it will make people jump. Wright's trailer is a homage to british horror movies. It's called “Don't” and perfectly captures the central horror movie tenet: don't open the door, don't look.. don't take the fucking shortcut, for that matter (take that, House of Wax!). Marvelous. Eli's trailer takes on the most American holiday, Thanksgiving, and turns it into one fucked up slasherfest, with stuff you have never seen before in your life, and most likely, the MPAA guys spilled their coffee over it. Rounding it up, is Zombie's “Werewolf Women of the SS”, that tells about a supposed secret Nazi plan to create an army of killer-women, but something goes wrong and all hell breaks loose. And you will mark my words, there will be people freaking out at one particular actor playing Fu Manchu. Good fucking times at the movies. Unequaled, unreached, un-fucking-believable. The trailers, along with vintage pop corn ads, ratings clips and an intermission title card, make the experience what it is. Nothing will get audiences more raved up than those trailers, and it's a shame Tarantino didn't have the time to do one himself. It would have sure been even more hilarious. All in all, taking Machete into consideration as well, this Grind House framework is one of the greatest things I have ever seen, and without it, Grind House would not be what it is. There is one downside, though. For one, a lot of people won't get it, two, there are not enough of those trailers, and three, if you have a sensitive stomach, well... make sure you bring a puke bag.

And finally....
Death Proof

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After Rodriguez knocked himself out unleashing sickos, explosions and Bruce Willis onto the audience, it is time for Quentin to tell the world how you kill somebody with a car without running over somebody. Not since CSI's Grave Danger have we seen Quentin at work, and was it worth the wait? Well bring on hot chicks and Kurt Russel....

Death Proof starts out with a bunch of sexy girls on their way to going out at some cool places in Austin, Texas. They are Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), a local DJ, and her friends Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) and Shanna (Jordan Ladd). They hit some bars, have fun, and get drunk, but when they run into Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russel), who heard about the girls on the radio and had been following them, their luck changes. Mike picks up Pam (Rose McGowan) at the bar the girls were at. And when everybody leaves, things get ugly, and only Mike survives, because his car is, well, it is death proof. The film then makes a jump and Stuntman Mike is now after a group of film people, surrounding Zoe Bell (as herself), a stuntwoman who just got back from New Zealand, the makeup artist Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), stunt driver Kim (Tracie Thoms) and the young actress Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is supposed to play a cheerleader. They end up taking a Dodge Charger for a spin that some guy in the middle of nowhere is selling, when they suddenly get attacked by Mike. But these chicks are a though nut to crack, and Mike is getting a really hard time. In a deadly pursuit on the road,, during which Zoe is performing one of her favorite stunts on the hood of the car (part of the reason she wanted to test-drive the vehicle in the first place), the girls have to fight for survival.....

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Death Proof is Tarantino's homage to 70s car-chase movies such as Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry or Vanishing Point. He takes his time establishing these remarkable female characters, and then either kills them off or lets them live, by the hands of “one diabolical man”, the psycho stuntman with the death-proof car. The film is magnificent in how it starts really slow (twice), gets a little creepy and then shit hits the fan (or body parts hit the road, however you wanna see it). The film boasts Tarantino's trademarks: hand picked soundtrack titles out of his own jukebox, awesome dialogue that sounds like a woman wrote it, a trunk shot, and drugs. While in the first half, the girls around Jungle Julia are people who hang out, sexy chicks trying to get laid or drunk or stoned, the second half offers a few film people and one of the craziest car action sequences since the Road Warrior (ha! Now that's a bold statement). One of my main points of criticism are the facts that for one, you fall in love with those girls and then they die half way through the movie and your heart has to fall in love again with new characters but it doesn't really work as easily as the first time, and two, that I personally don't like the idea of people playing themselves in movies in general. Aside from that, Death Proof delivers as much as Planet Terror does, but on a whole different level. It makes you hold on to your seat, it lets you feel suspense, it gives you a real world, where real characters do things that could happen, where nobody has superhuman capabilities, where emotions jump off the screen and draw the audience in. Stuntman Mike is a great character, so diverse, so deep, and he could be the guy next door! Kurt Russel gives one great exploitation performance, and struggles to balance the toughness of Quentin's women. Tarantino does remarkable stuff with the camera, too, not just during the car scenes. You get the feeling he is experimenting a little bit, to make up for the fact that the film is told linear, something he has not done in a long while (if at all). The great music he picked, the sexy women he cast (I was especially blown away by Ms Poitier, who I had never before seen on screen and dominates the entire first half with not only her legs, and Ms Winstead, who totally nailed her unfortunately a little too marginal character, and adds the necessary sexy cuteness to balance the tough attitudes of her on-screen friends), the screen legend he chose for a villain, the cool locations, and the no-holds-barred action, make Death Proof one hell of a fun fest. Personally, I prefer Death Proof over Planet Terror, would I have to pick one. Death Proof is not as over-the-top, it is realer, it is grittier, it is a lot more serious, and yeah, it's coming at you at 200 mph, leaving your heart racing, your adrenaline pumping and your eyes wide open. I have to repeat myself stating that I think the fact that we are dealing with two groups of women victims which essentially creates two halves of Death Proof, hurts the intensity of the film a little bit, and honestly, for the fact that some things have already been cut from the film (Robert said Quentin will add another 30 minutes to it for the separate version) it is a little bit too long, while you seriously wish there had been more content. That was my initial point of criticism when I reviewed the script a few weeks ago (see here) already and it holds up. Death Proof is a blast. It has some of the best characters Quentin has written in a long time, breakthrough action and my prediction is that the soundtrack CD will sell really really well.

8.5/10

Together, they make the greatest movie experience in a long long long fucking time. You will go to the movies with friends, or your girlfriend, or your boyfriend, you will have popcorn and a soda, and you will watch those trailers, and have the most fun. You will see Planet Terror and drool at the original stuff multi-talent genius Robert has pulled out of his hat. You will enjoy the crazy shit that is happening on screen, you will not believe it, you will ask yourself, what on earth could be next? Death Proof will be next, and it will put the icing on the cake in terms of thrill. I have seen people jump up from their seats, I have seen people applaud, scream and laugh during Grind House. You will wish those tough chicks were friends of yours, would have wild turkey shots with you, not Eli Roth. Why do people to to the movies? They want to have fun. Grind House is a movie movie experience that will let you have exactly that. You will pay for one ticket, you will see two movies, but you will have one hell of a ride. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are bringing back the grind house experience and they are out on a mission to bring great fun to the 21st century movie fan. They are back to back to make April 6 the new christmas.

Grind House is a 9/10, motherfuckers!

--Sebastian 03:25, 28 March 2007 (CEST)