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Grindhouse: A Clever Experiment That Succeeds

Should you spend three hours of your life indulging two directors’ fanboy fantasies with a parade of gross-out humor, awkward pacing, bad acting, and obscure movie references?

Yes, you absolutely should.

As you've probably heard by now, Grindhouse is actually two movies in one: Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. But it's also an ambitious attempt to recreate an obsolete experience — seeing a double-feature at a '70s B-movie parlor, complete with trailers, missing film reels, scratched frames, and the freedom to applaud ass-kicking moments and "ew" over icky ones.

In this regard, collaborators and comrades Rodriguez and Tarantino are entirely successful, and it's highly entertaining to watch how they pull it off, so

I know a lot of you are approaching Grindhouse with total disinterest, but the intentionally over-the-top movie is actually quite thought-provoking. Each director interprets the challenge differently, which makes the film pairing that much more captivating.

The first movie, Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is pure homage — a zombie movie with a modern-day terrorism twist — and, in my opinion, the more successful of the two. It has all the trappings of a B-movie, including choppy editing, a pointless plot, even B-list actors, including Freddy Rodriguez as a vigilante and Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer on a mission. The acting is at once terrible and brilliant — Stacy Ferguson (aka "Fergie") couldn't act her way out of a backseat, and for that reason, she is expertly cast as a troubled motorist.

The problem with actual bad movies is that they have the potential to be really boring. What's impressive about Planet Terror is that it feels authentic without actually being bad. Much the way John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China was both campy and entertaining, Rodriguez manages to make tired B-movie tropes — cliched dialog, blood and guts that might have been purchased at Spencer Gifts — feel surprisingly novel.

But while Planet's influences are obvious, Tarantino’s contribution, a sort of tribute to stunt-people called Death Proof, is harder to get your head around. Much the way that Kill Bill took the martial arts movie and Tarantinofied it, Death Proof gathers inspiration from car-chase films and horror flicks to invent what feels like an entirely new genre.

Oddly, Death Proof also plays like two movies in one, and like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, the action unfolds in what looks like a fictional era, blending a '70s aesthetic with modern conveniences like cell phones. Set and shot in Austin, TX — in what feels like an excuse for Tarantino to namecheck lots of local restaurants — the first half follows a group of freewheeling gals on a night out, and though it turns out to be a horror movie, it forgoes the dramatic tension that normally imbues horror movies, so the format feels entirely unfamiliar.

The same thing could be said for part two, which follows another group of girls only tangentially related to the first group. Working on location for a movie, these women — including Kill Bill stunt-woman Zoe Bell, playing herself — morph the movie from horror film into women's revenge flick in a way that's entirely unexpected and also quite jarring.

It would be an impressive trick, but in my opinion, Tarantino doesn't quite pull it off. Rather than work in his favor, the odd pacing makes the disparate plots feel unfinished. At the same time, the trademark Tarantino banter in cars and diners feels watered down compared to some of the genius scenes in Reservoir Dogs and other Tarantino movies. However, I will say that Death Proof feels unlike anything I've ever seen on the big screen — and also like one of those cases where I should wait to see the director's cut.


Join The Conversation
ms_dior_cherie ms_dior_cherie 9 years
I just watched Death Proof and now Im excited to see the other one. Death Proof wasn't all that bad. Its actually kind of what I expected.
thedrywallgirl thedrywallgirl 10 years
The Grindhouse is f*cken AWESOME!!! Just saw it today! :D
LizaToad LizaToad 10 years
i'm really looking forward to this.... i love freddy rodriguez and have a soft spot for rose mcgowen... does anyone else remember that ridiculous movie 'jawbreaker'??
bethiesny bethiesny 10 years
Planet Terror was fantastic - gruesome, hilarious. Freddy Rodriguez is my hero! But the energy and excitement I felt during that film disappeared when I had to sit through endless scenes of women talking in Death Proof. Tarantino needs a good editor!
bugness bugness 10 years
I actually preferred Death Proof to Planet Terror. Not sure exactly why. But I'm glad it was the second of the two, because it put me into this great mood that had me babbling non-stop afterwards. I was all RARRGIRLPOWERYES. I hope because of this, Zoe Bell gets more acting roles. And the soundtrack for Death Proof is on my iTunes right now making me want to learn how to give a lap dance haha. -Bug
Betty Betty 10 years
I just saw Grindhouse this morning and LOVED it!! I thought both directors did a really great job of capturing the spirit of 70s style B-movies. The missing reels and melting film were a nice touch and I loved the fake previews. I wish they would make the Machete movie and the Thanksgiving one. Too funny.
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
Maybe it feels rushed because they had to re-edit at the last minute to avoid an NC-17 rating? Dunno.
blogsap blogsap 10 years
ahh, it all makes sense. thanks! i would hear "missing reel" but never had a context.
MisterPinkNoTip MisterPinkNoTip 10 years
It looks really awesome. Seriously, I'll go see anything with zombies!
jessugar jessugar 10 years
Thanks for the review! While I loved Reservoir Dogs, and really liked Pulp Fiction, Tarantino kind of lost me after that. I didn't like Kill Bill, but I have a bit of an Uma Thurman aversion, so I'm not really in a place to judge that one. All of that being said, I've been excited about Grindhouse. I love bad horror/B movies, and both Rodriguez and Tarantino are a custom-fit for this genre of film. I didn't know that Naveen Andrews was in Planet Terror! That's fun. Love him. "It's a great big wonderful world out there, Barnaby."
Entertainment Entertainment 10 years
Yes, Blogsap, there are deliberately missing scenes where it actually says "missing reel." But when I mention the unfinished feel of Death Proof, that doesn't have anything to do with the missing reels. It almost feels like Tarantino rushed the editing too much overall. The "missing reel" stuff is just funny.
blogsap blogsap 10 years
great review, but i have to ask about all the "missing reel" stuff. from what i gathered, Tarantino deliberatly left stuff out... giving the unfinished feel like days of "grindhouse" yor. but it seems like a waste if the movie suffers.
chancleta chancleta 10 years
Ok I have to admit I liked True Romance too. Might have been the only one I liked but I did really like it. You know what you taught me that I didn't know: Naveen Andrews? SWEET! Love him!
mandyterry mandyterry 10 years
I am SO ready to see this movie!!!! I love Tarantino movies . . . True Romance & Pulp Fiction being my two faves!
missyosigirl missyosigirl 10 years
can't wait to see this!!!
peepshow peepshow 10 years
Although this is the most intriguing/interesting review, I'm still not interested in actually seeing the(se) movie(s).
Classy-Amelia Classy-Amelia 10 years
I totally want to see Grindhouse. It seems pretty awesome.
houseboy houseboy 10 years
I must say, I am a bit disappointed not to find a hyper link to Spencer's. I think a whole generation of mall-goers miss the store with all the garbage any kid (or immature coworker, for that matter) could want.
Lucky-Penny Lucky-Penny 10 years
True Romance is a great one!
Tech Tech 10 years
Thanks for the review - I'm really interested in seeing this but was unsure if I could make the commitment. If you approve I'll give it a try. "True Romance" is one of my all-time favorite movies and every time a new Tarantino comes out I cross my fingers it will be as good. They never are....
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
Every guy I know is going nuts waiting for this to come out. They're super excited to see Kurt Russel's return to his badass roots.
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