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Movie Review: Grindhouse

April 5, 2007

Dir: Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez
Rose McGowan
Freddy Rodriguez
Kurt Russell
a bunch of people

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino making a grindhouse movie is probably redundant, considering that Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, and Sin City were glossy, star power packed indulgences in the styles and themes of the low budget genre films of the 70’s and early 80’s. But hey, we all wish we could make a living doing what we love, right?

Rodriguez is first up with a thunderclapping, firestorming survival horror flick Planet Terror. Rose McGowan is Cherry, a go-go dancer with a heart of gold who, along with the troubled hero Wray (Freddie Rodriguez), find themselves beset on all sides by the tyranny of evil zombies. Now, when I say the director goes balls out with the extreme madness with a capital X, I mean that literally, as you’ll notice; Naveen Andrews’s foreigner/scientist has a peculiar collection in his specimen jar.

Rodriguez’ take on grindhouse is as earnest as United 93’s take on 9/11, trying to replicate the late night drive-in experience with faux worn out prints and gushing splatter packs and more exploding heads than George Romero could have dreamed. You’ll never catch him winking at us (unless you consider the entire exercise to be one giant wink) expecting you to be in on the joke, cuz blasting zombies is serious business.

Rodriguez remarked that it’s great to be able to spend the kind of money on his film the real grindhouse directors could have only imagined, partially because of the talent he could attract. Josh Brolin, who may have a future filling in for the aging Kris Kristofferson, and Jeff Fahey nearly steal the segment. However, Freddie’s command of every frame he’s in and McGowan’s take on the plucky heroine (not to mention being willing to walk around in half her scenes like Scuzzlebutt)

Tarantino takes on slasher flicks with his movie in a movie, Death Proof. It may seem redundant for QT to do a tribute to grindhouse (what, again?). However, this go around he’s put a leash on himself, even if the leash is attatched to a studded collar.

Your run of the mill slasher flick from the 80’s feature the women in peril from the lurker behind the shadows. Tarantino flips this in some interesting ways. I’m guessing a cat who got his cinematic education from watching Pam Grier and Meiko Kaji found it a bit off-putting that all the assertive women in slasher flicks never made it to the final reel, while the coyingly innocent girl was the last one standing. In Death Proof, strong women live to seek rough justice from the murderer on wheels.

That killer is played by Kurt Russell with a vibrant joy we haven’t seen from him since Big Trouble in Little China. The equally charming Rosario Dawson and Zoe Bell are fun to watch. I know Tracie Thoms’ character is meant to be charming in the way that people found Marla Gibbs charming, however Thoms’ turn as a hood rat stuntwoman got on my damn nerves. I understand the cat grew up on Tamara Dobson, however I’m starting to wonder if Blaxploitation flicks are the QT’s only window into viewing African-Americans.

The star of his segment is the car chase, as would be the same in a true school grindhouse movie. There’s lots of Resevoir Dogs style chatter that are extended set-ups for the motorized money shots. By the time the last, bracing set piece comes up, you may be getting fidgety, however it’s definitely worth the wait.

It is interesting that of the two directors, Tarantino seems less wed to the idea of making a film so reverent to grind house cinema. If there’s a familiarity to QT’s segment at all, it’s QT referencing himself rather than John Carpenter so much. If that works against Death Proof’s fun factor, it doesn’t make the segment less worthwhile.

For some, the highlight of the entire film will be the fake movie trailers directed by modern grindhouse specialists Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, plus Shaun of the Dead auteur Edgar Wright and Rodriguez himself. Roth’s mock horror film Thanksgiving will have you begging for ham the next time the holiday comes about.

{relevant to an earlier post, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson has a brief role in the movie, or brief roll . . . and she wasn’t terrible. Her humps, her humps, her lovely lady lumps were not bared}

7 Comments leave one →
  1. imtheotherdave permalink
    April 5, 2007 7:25 am

    I am pretty damn jealous that you have seen this film right now. Nice review too!

  2. April 5, 2007 3:47 pm


  3. April 5, 2007 4:21 pm

    what the other two said. You made me even MORE excited about this.

  4. April 10, 2007 6:35 am

    Nice blog and nice review.


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