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GRINDHOUSE IS A DOUBLE DOSE OF GORE-SPLATTERED GREATNESS

 

Grindhouse, the new double feature from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino is the bloodiest, wildest and most entertaining movie experience that's played mainstream theaters in decades. With two full length features, four fake movie trailers and some vintage snack bar ads, the experience is meant to take viewers back to the glory days of the '60s and '70s, when you could see grainy double features of horror, kung-fu, and revenge flicks at your local theater or drive-in. The result is funny, disgusting, suspenseful and at times breathtaking.

 

 

First, let's talk about the trailers. "Machete" opens the show, and features Danny Trejo as the ultimate badass day-laborer/assassin. Directed by Rodriguez, "Machete" literally starts the experience off with a bang, and we're treated to a cameo by Cheech Marin, playing a priest armed with two shotguns. The other three trailers are played as an intermission between the two films, featuring contributions by Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright. Rob Zombie's trailer "Werewolf Women of the SS" somehow falls short of impact of the other trailers, which is surprising considering his great cast. Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" is outlandish and a dead on perfect recreation / spoof of an 80's slasher, right down to music cues taken from Creepshow. Edgar Wright's "Don't" is easily my favorite, which starts off riffing on Legend of Hell House and just turns into what looks like the craziest haunted house movie ever made.
 

A machine gun for a leg AND she gets great parking spaces!!!


The first feature is Planet Terror, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. This is a wet and wild zombie movie that looks like it was plucked out of the early '80s, with the exception of some modern technology. The look of the film is dead on that of a really beat up old 35mm print, including a missing reel at a key moment. Planet Terror features such gory treats as melting zombies, gallons of blood, strippers, exploding heads, pus and Bruce Willis. The FX work by KNB is some of the best I've seen them do, and it's refreshing to see such over the top gore and violence in the era of PG-13 "family friendly" horror. If there was an Academy Award for "Goriest bullet hits", Planet Terror would win the lifetime achievement award.

The plot of Planet Terror involves deadly biological weapons, a go-go dancer/ aspiring stand-up comic and her ex-boyfriend, a rivalry between the town sheriff and the local BBQ cook, and a deranged husband and his cheating wife. Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds and I loved it. The cast is perfect, and it's always a treat to see genre veterans like Michael Biehn and Tom Savini put to good use. Planet Terror raised the bar mighty high, and following the intermission trailers it was hard to imagine how Tarantino would match the level of excitement with his feature.

Death Proof takes almost an opposite approach to Planet Terror in the way the pace it set. Where Planet Terror is like a George Romero movie on crack, Death Proof is classic Tarantino, focusing on great dialogue and character development. Death Proof focuses on a two groups of women who have the misfortune of meeting a guy named "Stuntman Mike", who kills women with his car, but not in the way you'd think. His car is "death proof" like the title, in that it's been completely reinforced to protect the driver when he performs a spectacular crash. Only his side is death proof, so anyone unlucky enough to ride in the passenger seat is going to have a real bad day. The story takes it's time and the actors are given a chance to really shine delivering the dialogue. Kurt Russell is amazing in this, playing charming and charismatic one moment and completely deranged the next. While Planet Terror is a little predictable, Death Proof is not. Because we're given time to know and care about the characters, a real sense of suspense and drama flows just as naturally as the dialogue. Death Proof takes come wild twists and turns and literally had the audience screaming by the end.

In some ways, it's hard to digest all that I witnessed. It's sensory overload, in the best way. It's two gifted filmmakers having fun and making their own distinct and wild films, coupled by the concept of the Grindhouse experience. Did they succeed in transporting the audience back to the days of real grindhouse cinema? Maybe too well. Both films are far more entertaining and well crafted than most grindhouse films, but that's no flaw. Here's to hoping that Grindhouse won't be a one-time memory of thrills from the past. Instead, it should be a new standard of the uninhibited filmmaking to come.

 

-Jace Whitman

jace@retrocrush.com

 

Jace is the writer/director of the upcoming horror film Whispers and Shadows which stars Richard Moll, and features a 2 different cameo roles by Robet Berry. I smell Oscar! (Madison) CLICK HERE for the official site.

 

 

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