Words By S.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

S does Grindhouse.

Filed under: Film,Music,Popular Culture — S @ 11:06 am

After this weekend at the cinema (when I went to see Hot Fuzz), I made the realization that there has not been a week in this month where I have not attended a a film event at the movie theatre. It felt odd, yet satisfying to make that realization. And, of all the films I have seen this month, my favorite movie-going experience was sitting through 3.5 hours of fantastic cinema at Grindhouse.

Grindhouse movie poster

In an overdue film review, I felt that the Tarantino/Rodriguez powerhouse project was flawless. The fake trailers, the old school ratings cartoons, the film projector “fuck-ups” were all perfectly calculated and executed. As were the homages to Tarantino’s past films (but more on that later). Onto the films!

Our first of the double feature was Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.

Planet Terror movie poster

This was essentially a zombie-action film, chock full of explosions. As humor-filled as it was action-packed, this was a film about a sleepy little town, like the type you would find off of a random exit on a major highway. In this sleepy little town, a major military operation was happening, which would eventually bring forth a militia of flesh eating zombies.

The heroes in this film were Cherry, a go-go dancer with a dream to be a stand-up comedian; Wray, owner of Wray’s Wreckage, a wrecking company; JT, the owner of the local barbecue shop; the town’s police; Dr. Dakota Block, anesthetics extraordinaire; a couple of foul-mouthed babysitting twins; and the owner of the local go-go club.

Behind the chemical that causes the zombification of the town is Abby, a bio-chemist with a rather… fondness for balls, and the military – freshly returned from killing Osama bin Laden.

One of my favorite things about this film (aside from the fact that I love zombie films) is the distorted time structure. This film looks like it would have been set in the 1970’s, stylistically. This town, and particularly JT’s, looks like Bumfuck, USA circa 1970 (think: Motel Hell), and the Go-Go-Go club only helps with that image, and yet these are technologically savvy people. The doctors have text messaging via the latest in the palm pilot-meets-cell phone gadgetry; the hospital has high-speed internet and computers in the examining rooms, though the hospital looks cheap. The town’s police squad and station also appear to be straight from the 70’s, and yet the guns they use by the end of the film are amazing.

Another of my favorite things about this film were some of the cinematographic style choices. For example, when Dr. Dakota Block’s husband is walking down the hospital corridor to overly dramatic music, in a style that screams “soap opera”. Some of the other genius style choices were in the form of cheesy slasher film, big budget Hollywood explosion film, and western.

Another genius point (which is extremely subtle, and I only picked it up when I went to see it for a second time) is how they connect Planet Terror with Tarantino’s Death Proof. If you listen carefully during one of the car scenes, you will notice that the driver is listening to a radio show by DJ Jungle Julia…

…which brings me to Tarantino’s Death Proof.

Death Proof movie poster

This film shows off Quentin Tarantino’s genius. So much happens in this film that it’s mind boggling, but before I get to that, I will tell you what this film is about.

As you can see from the movie poster, it’s about a car chase (on the surface). However, as Tarantino puts it, “it’s a car chase horror” film. Stuntman Mike (played by Kurt Russell) has a bit of a… chick habit. He likes to stalk pretty girls. His first victims are Pam (Rose McGowan), immediately followed by DJ Jungle Julia (played by Sydney Portier), Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), and Lanna Frank ( Monica Staggs).

Stuntman Mike is, like his name promises, a stuntman. He even has a death proofed car to prove it. (Note: Death Proof takes its name from the technique of death proofing your stunt car.) However, in satiating his hunger for pretty girls, he must kill them… with his car (think Crash – Cronenberg’s 1996 film, not that self-righteous piece of crap that won the Oscar). One day, Stuntman Mike chooses to mess with the wrong women when he goes after Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Zoe Bell (herself), and Kim (Tracie Thoms).

Death Proof is fun, exciting, thrilling, and just about every other synonym you could possibly think of. As a person who knows nothing about cars and has never watched a car chase film (this film is a self-proclaimed homage to Vanishing Point), my saying this means a lot. This was a fantastic way to end a double feature, for sure, and it leaves a lasting impression.

Like Plant Terror, Death Proof has a distorted time frame. So much of it appears to be from the 70’s – a dj being treated as a celebrity (she even has her very own billboards all over Austin), the poem, the motif, the cinematography, the hair and clothes – and yet, DJ Julia has a cellular phone and text messaging, which brings it right back to present day.

Another example of Tarantino’s genius is the constant element of surprise in this film. So often does the viewer assume that they think they know what is going to happen next, only to be horribly mistaken. Also, using Kurt Russell was such a fantastic move, it was so great seeing him in something this great again. I had forgotten just how good he is.

As usual, Tarantino’s music choice in this film is fantastic. Most notably, the closing song of Death ProofChick Habit by April March. This song is perhaps as mind blowing and memorable as the film itself. Fantastic music choice.

As I mentioned before, there were a few homages made to Tarantino’s past films – mostly, Pulp Fiction. My all time favorite being Stuntman Mike saying that he say Jungle Julia’s billboard “next to the Big Kahuna Burger.” Also, in the form of Stuntman Mike saying, “…tasty beverage” (subtle, yes, but then so was the connection between the two films). Finally, the most obvious was the Acuna Boys (Kill Bill vol. 2) both as an advertisement between the fake trailers and features and as the restaurant Jungle Julia and the gang go to.

All in all, this film was perfection. It delivered even more than I had hoped to see, and not once did it feel like I was sitting in the theatre for over three hours. This film was sheer greatness and is so hope-inducing for the future of cinema.

The only thing I cannot understand, however, is why it is not grossing as well as it should. Thoughts?



  1. Hmmm. I loved Hot Fuzz, but I loved Shaun of the Dead too. I guess I’ll have to see Grindhouse after all!

    Comment by Beauty — Sunday, 6 May 2007 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  2. I loved both of those so much! However, in terms of sheer fun, ‘Hot Fuzz’ had nothing on ‘Death Proof’. ‘Hot Fuzz’ was fun in the terms of comedy and adventure, and it was fun trying to figure out who the killer actually was; ‘Death Proof’ was exciting and dangerous and kept you on the edge of your seat, and there was comedy thrown in for good measure.

    Comment by S — Monday, 7 May 2007 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  3. Look at me! Now I’m all excited to see “Death Proof!”

    Comment by Beauty — Monday, 7 May 2007 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

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