Director(s): Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino (Plus trailers directed by Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, Jason Eisener)
Starring: Rose McGowan, Bruce Willis, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Josh Brolin, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Vanessa Ferlito, Tracie Thoms, Jorda Ladd, Monica Staggs…and many, many more!
Filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez pay tribute to exploitation films of the 1970s with two features in one. Tarantino directs “Death Proof,” a slasher film, and Rodriguez directs “Planet Terror,” a zombie movie. Fictitious ads and movie trailers run during each feature’s intermission. (Source: Google)
Before I kick off my main thoughts on this double feature, credit has to go to my wonderful boyfriend Martin (go and follow him on Twitter and check out his site by the way!) for taking me along to see this. He spotted that it was playing at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square, of which we are both members, and I rarely turn down opportunities to go to. So without any prior knowledge of what Grindhouse was or what I was letting myself in for, I agreed to attend.
Now as many will already know, I am a massive wimp when it comes to horror movies, however I’m generally fine with violence if it is “Tarantino-style” violence, and as my brief foray into horrors has proved, usually okay with zombie movies. Neither of these films are scary per se, although Planet Terror does have a couple of fun minor jump-scares, yet both lovingly pay homage to the horror movies of old – in particular B-movies, and the hyper-violent and über-gross “video nasties”.
Upon its release in 2007, and despite mostly positive reviews, Grindhouse under-performed at the box office, leading to the two films being released worldwide as a separate feature, meaning the majority of people wouldn’t get to enjoy the full experience as intended. It found a bit more of an audience when released on home media, but it is great to see the whole presentation, as intended, back-to-back and with the fake trailers interspersed.
Of the two films, I was fully expecting to enjoy Deathproof more, being both a huge fan of Tarantino and an unashamed fangirl of Kurt Russell and everything that he does! We’ll get to that, but first Planet Terror, which surprised me and ultimately ended up being my favourite of the two. It is blood-splattered, riotous B-movie fun that gives you more blood, guts and bodily fluids than you could shake a machine gun leg at! It is completely ridiculous, over-the-top, but oh so much fun, and whilst none of the performances are close to awards worthy, you can tell the cast are all having an amazing time and this is as contagious as a toxic zombie-creating gas! The practical effects are reminiscent in places of the “old-school” effects of films like John Carpenter’s The Thing, and it is great to see this utilized so well alongside more modern digital effects.
Deathproof is undoubtedly enjoyable, but also easy to see why many would consider it to be Tarantino’s worst. I’m yet to judge the full version, but for me it was that trademark Tarantino dialogue that weighed heavy upon this film. The interactions between the female characters were a lot of fun and the majority of the cast are able to pull off the wordy demands of a Tarantino script really well, but after the all-out assault of Planet Terror, Deathproof feels somewhat tame – lacking on enough action to keep your interest and never fully realising its potential. Russell’s Stuntman Mike makes for a compelling villain, but it is the women that steal the show. Real-life stunt-woman Zoe Bell, and Tracie Thoms are amongst the highlights, and the end chase and fight are very satisfying. It feels like a little bit of a slog, but it isn’t without merit, and I fully believe those who say it is a film which has the power to grow on you.
The unsung hero of the Grindhouse presentation is the fake trailers, directed by some notable directors and fans of the horror genre. The highlight for me was Edgar Wright’s Don’t; a film I would genuinely watch given the chance, as it features so many of Wright’s old reliable collaborators. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS is also wonderful; just as ridiculous as you would expect, and with the most amazing appearance from Nicholas Cage.
Overall, I really loved my Grindhouse experience, and Planet Terror in particular is a film I could see myself revisiting. If you are yet to enjoy the two films as this spectacular double feature, then it is well-worth seeking out, particularly if you’re fortunate enough to find a cinema that is showing in. Fun, over-the-top and wildly entertaining, they just don’t make things like Grindhouse anymore, but based on this, perhaps they should!