I heard there was a musical broadway version of The Toxic Avenger coming out so I thought now would be a good time to review Grindhouse from Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino.
I grew up watching some of the grindhouse flicks as a kid and was a big fan of some of the movies from the genre. In particular, I enjoyed films like I Spit On Your Grave (which I heard they’re doing a remake of, good luck on that one), just about anything from Troma, The Last House on the Left (the original) and some of the Roger Corman releases as well as others. So when I heard that Robert Rodriquez (one of my favorite directors) and Quentin Tarantino (also awesome) were teaming up to do a double header, I was pretty damn psyched.
First, the DVD release is substantially different than what was in the theater. They only included one of the trailers (Machete) for starters. This was a HUGE disappointment as the trailers are one of the things that made the theatrical experience so cool in the first place! They excluded trailers by Rob Zombie (Werewolf Women of the SS) and Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving as well as the trailer for Don’t all of which are fake but great testimonials to the genre with all the gory fun, nudity and b-movie schlock you enjoy from a grindhouse release. They also released both films from Rodriquez and Tarantino on seperate DVDs. What I’m assuming is that they’ll re-release everything again as one box set which will hopefully include the trailers. If you’re thinking about getting the DVD, you might want to wait to see if they’re going for the eventual box set.
As far as the main attractions go: Robert Rodriquez’s Planet Terror is everything a grindhouse flick should me. It contains the a-typical storyline – toxic chemicals released into the air causing zombie mutations, followed by the zombie overrun, a bad boy anti-hero, babes (including Rose McGowan and Fergie), the out of control ex-military figurehead who wants revenge (played very well by Bruce Willis) and plenty of violence with an never ending supply of bullets and blood splattering. The movie doesn’t hold back on the gross factor either with some needle in the eye moments, exploding puss-filled sores, heads exploding and much more gross fun! Rodriquez cleverly includes film experience moments from the 70’s including a very scratchy and grainy 70’s film look to the overall movie as well as a film reel break followed by a “Missing Reel” message that pops up at a certain point in the film (I won’t spoil this by saying when it happens, but it made me laugh out loud and the audience go “awwwwww!!!” in the theater). Overall, I’d say that Robert Rodriquez nailed it from start to finish.
As for Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof – well, that’s a different story. He definitely hit some of the right elements, he’s got babes, he’s got some great music in there, there’s some wicked car chase action and some of the violence that goes with the genre. That’s about it though. The film gets too wordy a la’ Tarantino’s style of adding a lot of witty, overly introspective dialog and diatribes. Normally, I like Tarantino’s work (I’m a big fan of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs) but the dialog didn’t work here. It really overpowered the film and just permeated throughout the experience when you really wanted more boobs, blood and explosions, which are all key ingredients to the grindhouse experience. The overall look also looked too new. This was ironic because Tarantino shot Death Proof on film and Rodriquez shot Planet Terror digitally. Rodriquez managed to stylize the digital footage very effectively to make it look like 70’s era bad film, Tarantino’s work just looks like plain old film, so it looks new and polished by comparison, which again takes away from the grindhouse experience. So, I’m sorry to the film purists out there that think digital sucks but Tarantino missed the mark on that one. As far as the violence (one of the key ingredients to a grindhouse film), there were some genuinely intense moments, but I can count them on one hand, not nearly enough to reach true grindhouse quota standards. And while the car chase at the end lasts a long time, it’s not action packed enough and even gets a little tedious length wise as he seemed to be putting all his eggs in this one main action basket that falls a bit flat. I honestly think that this film could’ve been about a half hour shorter and was the main reason why the Grindhouse double-header didn’t fair well in the theaters.
reviewed by Sean McKnight