A double-bill of thrillers that recall both filmmakers' favorite exploitation films. "Grindhouse" (a downtown movie theater in disrepair since its glory days as a movie palace known for "grinding out" non-stop double-bill programs of B-movies) is presented as one full-length feature comprised of two individual films helmed separately by each director. "Death Proof," is a rip-roaring slasher flick where the killer pursues his victims with a car rather than a knife, while "Planet Terror" shows us a view of the world in the midst of a zombie outbreak. The films are joined together by clever faux trailers that recall the '50s exploitation drive-in classics. Written by
As uproariously funny, perversely disgusting and outrageously awesome as everyone hoped it would be
When I first heard about Grindhouse, I was pretty excited. I have enjoyed practically everything Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have ever done, so the idea of such a nostalgic homage as Grindhouse really peaked my interest. I was really hyped for the movie, and managed to snag free passes to an advanced screening, and was it ever worth it.
Grindhouse consists of two very different films. The first, Planet Terror, is directed by Rodriguez and is a horror movie about zombies. The second, Death Proof, is directed by Tarantino and is a thriller about a crazed killer who murders women with his car.
Just knowing these two simple plot lines is enough. They are two stand alone films, and they are just as awesome as I thought they would be. This is the closest to a true homage that either director has ever done, and it works amazingly on screen. I was never a big on watching real grindhouse-style films, but these two films are exactly what I would expect them to be like. Just watching the films together was an experience that is simply unmatchable.
I was not expecting anything more than an obscene amount of violence, but the films were a lot more than that. Despite some missing reels, both films have just enough story to actually make them work as conventional films. As said previously, they could easily stand alone away from each other, and still be just as good (but probably not as awesome as they are back-to-back). Having part of the films missing really does not even matter, they work that well without them, and have all the trademark carvings of a Rodriguez or Tarantino film. Planet Terror drags on a bit near the finale, but that seems only because Rodriguez tried to pack in a lot more story to offset the action than the premise really set out for it too. Death Proof is loaded with dialogue, but it comes off brisk and so much faster paced. But all the same, both stay very much in tone with their particular genre.
The missing reels are only a complement to the fact that both of the film's actual picture quality is intentionally absolutely terrible. The films (more so Planet Terror) are scratched up and tarnished to the point where some scenes are practically unwatchable. You just stop seeing the action on screen, and only notice how beat up the print is. It looks old and worn out. And it works wonderfully, and makes the experience all the more authentic. The DVDs will not look anywhere near as stylistically worn as the films do here. Watching these films in perfect quality would just ruin the true homage-style the pair were going for.
The violence in both is another key element to the true impact of both films. Both are quite obscenely violent, and just become downright disgusting in a lot of sequences. They set out to push the limits of conventional 2007 era violence, and they more than do that. People are decapitated, ripped limb from limb, and just shot left, right and center. These people are destroyed beyond all comprehension, and just when you think they have done enough, it just keeps coming. Gorehounds will be in heaven, and those who have trouble looking at more than the slightest hint of blood may need to sit this one out. It gets to the point of being sick and twisted, but it works beautifully in the films, and they just would not be the same without it. The makeup artists put in a lot of work here, and it shows in how graphically violent the films are.
But by pushing it to the limits, the films also become darkly hilarious. It is not just the dialogue that will give you a chuckle, it is the effects and the action happening on screen. In some places, it just becomes so downright ridiculous that you cannot do anything but laugh. A lot of what happens is downright vile and inhumane, but it is done with such style and wit, that it just cannot be anything but hilarious. Every obscene and violent action done in previous Rodriguez and Tarantino movies is more than topped here, and fans will be hard set on not wanting some more by the time Death Proof concludes.
The faux trailers are also a nice touch, and in a way, push the boundaries of violence and hilarity even more so. I do not want to ruin any of them, but I just could not stop laughing. They are absolutely perfect, and they connect the films even more than they are already (not to mention the old-school ratings and preview reels). Rodriguez's Machete trailer that opens Grindhouse is amazing, and sets the tone for everything that follows. They only further how dedicated the filmmakers were to their original visions, and make the film all the more authentic.
The acting is campy, cheesy and right on the mark. Everyone is at their best, no matter how small their role, and no one feels like they are wrong for their part. Rose McGowan is a particular stand-out in both films, delivering every line and action to the highest degree possible. Kurt Russell is another stand-out, playing a character that is so evil that he exhales cool with every breath. And Freddy Rodriguez more than proves that he has what it takes to be a leading man. I did not like one particular character's sudden change half way through their film, but it works for the most part anyway.
There is nothing more I can say but that you need to see this film. It may be imperfect and a bit longish, but it is the closest thing to a brilliant homage that any filmmaker or audience has ever seen. It is everything that anyone could have hoped for and more.
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