Two of the most prolific and versatile directors of the past decade have come together to pay homage to the films that inspired them. What these two masters have concocted is “Grindhouse,” a massive double-feature that is a throwback to the exploitation films of the 1970s. Filled with scratched frames, faux reels, over-the-top violence, sex and language, “Grindhouse” is a perfect break from many of the recent films that seem to want to be more than they actually are.Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) deliver two vibrant, well-crafted pieces of cinematic art that can be appreciated by anyone who has ever watched a low-budget zombie film or a car-chase movie. While being excessively lengthy at three hours, “Grindhouse” is ultimately a thrill-ride that locks you in from the first frame of “Planet Terror” and does not let you go until the credits roll after “Death Proof.”
The first of the two films is Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” which pays homage to low-budget zombie films. Filled with action, the story centers around Cherry Baby, a go-go dancer who wishes to become a stand-up comedian. However, her dream is dashed when her right leg is ripped off and stolen by blood-thirsty zombies. The zombies are discovered by two graveyard shift doctors, who soon become victims of the disease, which is being spread from a military base. As more people become enraged aggressors, Cherry Baby, equipped with a machinegun prosthetic, and her ex-boyfriend Wray lead a group of warriors to take down the zombies.
As ridiculous as this sounds, it is quite entertaining. The film moves at a fast pace resulting in very little boredom. Avid zombie and low-budget horror film watchers can appreciate what Rodriguez was attempting to capture, and he succeeds in spades. The scratched frames and missing reels only add to the authenticity. However, the film is over-the-top at some points, which causes the movie to shift from tribute to satire. Despite this, “Plant Terror” is a great start to this double-feature.
Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” while still entertaining, moves much slower than the previous film. The story centers on Stuntman Mike, a driver who is out for revenge against women. He stalks and then kills them with his car. Having taken out Jungle Julia, Austin’s top DJ, he moves on to three unsuspecting friends who are driving along the open road for thrills. When they encounter Stuntman Mike, they go on the ride of their lives.
“Death Proof” moves much slower than “Planet Terror.” There is less action and it seems at times to be an outlet for Tarantino’s witty and poignant dialogue. While Tarantino crafts some great lines, much of the dialogue seems out of place in this type of film. He also does not use the clichs that Rodriguez utilizes in his film. Instead, he makes a Tarantino film in a pseudo-grindhouse film setting. Regardless, the director manages to craft one of the greatest on- screen car chases in recent memory. What begins slowly speeds up when the action gets going. Both films are filled with star power, featuring such celebrities as Rose McGowan, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell and Rosario Dawson.
Intertwined with these two films are previews performed by friends of the directors. “Machete” is the first and most entertaining. In between the two films are three others; Rob Zombies’ “Werewolf Women of the S.S.,” a Nazi-themed horror film; “Don’t,” a hilarious take on the “don’t look behind the door” horror films; finally, is Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving-themed horror film “Thanksgiving,” which alone, should have gotten “Grindhouse” an NC-17 rating. These trailers are thoroughly entertaining and provide a nice break from the two films.
While both films in “Grindhouse” were very entertaining, the three-hour length may be a bit much for some to digest. Both films, especially “Death Proof,” could have been cut by 15 minutes and been just as entertaining. This would not have affected either story and would make the movie much more accessible.
“Grindhouse” is pure entertainment. It was refreshing to see a film that delivers exactly what it promises, as opposed to one that promises so much and delivers so little. Both films deliver despite the excessive length. Even though they are supposed to be B-movies, “Grindhouse” gets an A.