Despite the homogeneous nature of cinema, I keep going to the movie theater. Largely, it's because of dudes like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Taratino, both of whom go their own way and offer up something that's so distinctively theirs that their names have become name brands for a certain type of film. When they collaborated on GRINDHOUSE, I knew it was gonna be something outrageous and offbeat, something decidedly unhomogeneous. With fanboy nudges and winks galore, these two maverick directors take us back to 1970s shlock with their gleefully offensive homage. In its sheer excess and blatantly hokey sensibilities, their efforts pull no punches. The audience is treated to crass, old school sensationalism, incidental nudity, fake-looking geysers of blood, and rampant and visceral disembowelment. I loved the hell out of it. In their simulation of that grungy sensation one feels when in them cruddy, shady theaters of old, Rodriguez and Tarantino willfully insert scratches on the print, projector miscues, sound goofs, and bad dubbing. We even have title cards apologizing for missing reels, which occur in the most inconvenient of times. My neighbor, who is old as dirt and had also frequented this film, remarked that that exactly was what it was like when he attended those low-rent, B-movie playhouses of yesteryear. I realize that this DVD only has PLANET TERROR, but I'm stubborn enough to not split the two films. I'll be mentioning both as watching them back-to-back in the theater enriched my original viewing experience. The double-feature bill trots out Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR and Tarantino's DEATH PROOF. Let's start with PLANET TERROR or, as I like to call it, Rodriguez's cheesily apocalyptic PLANET TERROR.
THE film title alone is reminiscent of many of those old time, sci-fi/horror B-movies. The plot centers around a mass zombie attack. We witness humanity's last stand as embodied by a one-legged go-go dancer (played with jaded brusqueness by Rose McGowan), her inexplicably lethal boyfriend (Freddie Rodriguez), an adulterous, needles-touting nurse, and a few others. It's a cup overflowing with campy dialogue and over-the-top, hilariously staged horror and action sequences. It also offers up a print that is marvelously grimy and grainy, and Rodriguez himself comes up with a pretty effective John Carpenter-like synthetic score which helps to drive the storyline. By the way, creature make-up artist Tom Savini gets a bit part here as he plays a digit-less deputy, while Naveen Andrews is great fun to watch as a testic1es-collecting bio-engineer. Fun, fun, fun.
The second billing is Tarantino's very talky DEATH PROOF, which is a callback to films such as VANISHING POINT, DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY, and the original GONE IN 60 SECONDS (all of which are referenced in this flick). And, if anyone's seen the 1965 flick FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! then DEATH PROOF will strike a certain familiarity. Kurt Russell does a deliciously villainous turn as the scarred Stuntman Mike who applies his death-proofed vehicle to do away with gorgeous females. But he makes the worst mistake of his life when he picks on fellow stuntperson Zoe Bell (who doubled for Uma Thurman in KILL BILL and who, here, plays herself).
With respect to the very natural Zoe Bell and her awesome ship's mast stunt, to me, the one to watch is Sydney Poitier (yes, it's his daughter) who plays the casually sexy Jungle Julia, she of the ravishing feet. Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson again can't help but sizzle on screen, while the very pouty-lipped Vanessa Ferlito... pouts her lips. If you're into extended dialogue which bears that distinctive Tarantino flourish, then the first half of this film is right up your alley because it's all significantly verbal and catered to the gentler sex - "gentler" being qualified here in that f-bombs are dropped with relished abandon. However, if you're an action fan, just wait 'til the second half because, then, Tarantino not only pulls out the stop signs, he smashes you in the mouth with 'em.
I have to mention the quartet of coming attraction trailers which ran in the theater. They ranged from the hilarious (MACHETE - "He just f***ed with the wrong Mexican!") to cliched shlock (DON'T and WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS) to vaguely disturbing (I don't even want to know what was going on in Eli Roth's THANKSGIVING). MACHETE's faux trailer was so outrageous that it inspired an actual motion picture. There's also an ad for some kind of Tex-Mex restaurant with dubious shots of its menu samples, which made me queasy just looking at 'em.
Rodriguez and Tarantino, in their celebation of exploitation films, inject GRINDHOUSE with their exuberance and subversive humor and their love for shlocky cinema. By doing so, they elevate this film tiers above the basement genre of their intended tribute. Their gifts for crafting cinematic icons are again on display as Cherry Darling, Stuntman Mike, and Zoe Bell - à la the Bride or El Mariachi - have become film cult figures. At three hours long, yeah, my bum did fall asleep, but it's a small price to pay to gain admittance into blissfully trashy paradise.