You probably have - in one way or another - heard something about Grindhouse. The hype machine has been running full blast for months now. Reviewers have been jumping up and down in rapture or piss, bitching, and moaning as only net-reviewers can do. I suggest cruising www.metacritic.com for general reviews and checking out Louis Black's excellent article from the Austin Chronicle about the history of grindhouse movies and all sorts of good stuff. Here's the link to an article about Grindhouse being an opening weekend dog and Weinstein wanting to chop the movie:What went so wrong with Grindhouse.
I was too young to see many of the grindhouse/exploitation/splatter movies in the theater but growing up I had WXXA Channel 23 and UHF 62. I spent most of the weekends of my youth watching these channels. On Saturday, beginning at noon would be a triple feature of 60s and 70s movies: thrillers, westerns, espionage, war, car movies, Bronson vehicles, badly dubbed European junk, crime classics, and of course horror. 4pm Saturday afternoons were awesome with hits like: Demon Dog, Food of the Gods, Blood Beach, Squirm, Life Force. Oh yeah real gems. Then - if my Grandpa would let me stay up or if I snuck in some TV time - late night horror shows and exploitation movies. As a teenager I watched all kinds of crap thanks to the magic of VHS. Later, when Mike & I teamed up we watched mountains of movies. I guess more or less Grindhouse was the kind of movie tailor-made for me.
Grindhouse was a blast, a really fun experience. We went to the Alamo Drafthouse and in all honesty this was the way to see it - a packed theater, burgers, and cold beer. Hootin' and hollerin' fun. Most of the problems I had with the movies I had after walking out and most of those problems were with Death Proof.
Planet Terror was the kind of movie that I've been complaining that they don't make anymore. It was gnarly, nasty gory but gore - none of this torture slasher crap that's been cranked out over the last few years. Gore, fountains of the stuff, dismemberments, decapitations, vehicular homicide, cannibalism, oozing sores, and all kinds of nastiness - the audience loved it. The story was straight up: evil military wants toxic gas, toxic gas makes people into flesh hungry psychos, bad-ass protagonists are immune to gas so it's up to them to save the day. What more do you want? This ain't a fuckin' Merchant-Ivory movie. Okay, I could have used more T&A.
The acting was what you expect from a Rodriguez movie - the cast seem to be having so much fun that you can't help but get caught up in the insanity. The directing and cinematography - again it's a Rodriguez movie - you just get caught up in the fun. The score was on one hand a bit too Sin City with the heavy handed saxophone theme but the incidental scoring had some synth work over a subdued theme and it sounded like something straight from a giallo classic.
Oh and the Machete preview was totally, completely, shit your britches awesome. It would be a crime to spoil such awesomeness for any of you who plan to see it. God it was cool. I would much rather have seen a double feature of Planet Terror with Machete.
The trailers between Planet Terror and Death Proof were - as we all know - fake but they were a total blast. My personal favorite was Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the SS. C'mon people it's Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS with werewolves! Let's just say it was awesome and leave it at that.
A question for you folks who haven't seen it at the Drafthouse - did it have the preview for Hobo with a Shotgun? Just curious.
Then we have Death Proof. Right off the bat, the car sequences were some of the best I have seen in a long time, a real long time. The wrecks were pretty freaking intense and exactly what I wanted to see. The wife beater Kurt Russell wore in Big Trouble in Little China is hanging on the wall of the Texas Chili Parlor. A good chunk of the beginning of the movie was filmed in my neighborhood. The soundtrack was pretty excellent in my opinion - a solid mix of STAX, Brit Invasion, 70s schlock, in short a good Tarantino soundtrack. Zoe Bell - as herself - is my new crush.
Problems with Death Proof:
It was a major mistake to put Death Proof after Planet Terror. Granted Death Proof wasn't finished because - if you believe the Austin rumour mill - he was run out of town for chasing under-age tail and just being a party monster. Who cares? Even if it was finished it didn't belong after Planet Terror. Too much time spent on chicks having chick talk. Now before you get all uppity and offended - there are some enjoyable moments of dialogue between the women though some of it stinks a little of written by a guy mythical bad-ass macho women. However, this is supposed to be an exploitation grindhouse homage. Let's get to killin'! Get to jigglin'! C'mon, seriously. There were a couple of moments I looked at my watch during the dialogue. In fact the dialogue was so realistic that I realized I could just as easily be listening to drunk Austin chicks in RL. I got bored and started looking at the set dressing and playing, "Guess the local." I have to admit - though I'm not proud of this - I started getting annoyed by the fact that I kept getting distracted by Austin. I realize it's a nit-pick but c'mon it's my neighborhood, get it fucking right.
When it comes down to it Death Proof could have been a pretty good stand alone movie with some polish and more character development but as a companion piece for Planet Terror it failed the genre it was trying to pay homage to. Death Proof could have been a very stripped down, intense, and effective chase movie. Well, it was...for about twenty minutes.
When it comes down to it I can understand why Grindhouse bombed its first weekend out. David Denby wrote, "The movie won't do much for anyone who doesn't have an academic or fanboy absorption in junk." To a certain extent that's true. Your average movie goer doesn't know or care or want to see a movie like Grindhouse - c'mon opening weekend it was trounced by Blades of Glory and Are We Done Yet? Granted it was a full house last night here in Austin, TX but like we say here, "Austin ain't everywhere else."
While thinking about the movie and putting together this review together it made me wish that I was in high school seeing this for the first time - not be so damned jaded and nit-picky. Then again if movies were good enough I would have to be jaded and nit-picky. Damn it.