By Oliver Joszt
Directors Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) and Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill) resurrect an embraced cult form of era-specific film production and exhibition with their newest film, Grindhouse, which they based on cheap exploitation flicks that filled the grindhouse theaters in Times Square and Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s. The films were known for their grotesque images, bad acting, unnecessary nudity and cheap budget.
In their homage to these grindhouse movies, Rodriguez and Tarantino have prepared a double-feature filled with a bloody longing for the cheesy, notorious pleasures of an older form of movie entertainment.
In the first film, Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, a biohazard leak turns normal people into cannibalistic zombies. It is up to go-go dancer Cherry Pie (Rose McGowan) to fight off these zombies. Her weapon is an outlandish machine gun that replaced the leg she lost in a tragic accident. Helping her in the battle are her ex-flame, Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), who kicks major butt with his arsenal of weapons, and Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton), an anesthesiologist armed with three deadly needles.
People might think that Rodriguez goes too far at times for even a grindhouse movie. Sitting through eye gouges and other disgusting elements is just repulsive. Cherry Pie’s hair and makeup remain flawless after getting attacked by zombies and flying through the air. None of this matters because all of these factors are exactly what makes the film so bad that you can’t help but love it.
The second movie of the night, Tarantino’s Death Proof, follows two different sets of attractive females. The first set, played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito and Jordan Ladd, is a group of tough women that is followed by a laid-back charmer named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). However, it isn’t until the second group (Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Bell) comes into the picture that all the real fun starts. They are the toughest women to ever grace cinema. They attempt extreme car stunts and even go head-to-head against a psychotic killer.
Some of the dialogue in Death Proof may drag on, but at times the characters hypnotize and entrance you with every word. Plus, after Rodriguez’s nonstop kill fest, people might feel a little bit slowed down with the script, but Tarantino’s feature uses great dialogue (something most recent movies are missing) in order to build the plot and consequently build up to the ultimate final scene.
Each of the films is full of scratches, bad splices and busted sprocket holes, and the images are not always in focus in order to create that grindhouse feeling. Each feature also has a missing reel during the most sexual moments, which the management apologizes for.
Rodriguez and Tarantino have also enlisted the help of modern-day horror directors in order to create side-splitting phony trailers before and in between the two features. Eli Roth’s trailer is one of the most notable and sickest with a hilarious tag line: “This year there will be no leftovers!”
Grindhouse is without a doubt one of the best times I had at the movies this year, and it is a great start to the blockbuster season. This film reminds me of what most movies were meant to do — entertain us. These are not the types of characters and performances that win Academy Awards, but they are the kind that remind us why we still love the experience of going to the movies in actual theaters. Movies like these give us the opportunity to cheer when zombies get blown up, groan when the gross-out factor makes us turn from the screen, whistle when the lead babe shows a lot of leg and laugh heartily at all the sick humor on display.