Anthony's Film Review
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino present a tribute to grindhouse cinema that is a real guilty pleasure...
The 2007 film Grindhouse is actually two movies in one (Planet Terror and Death Proof), accompanied by amusing fake movie trailers. I mention this for two reasons. One, it's designed to be a homage to grindhouse cinema (low-budget movies with plenty of violence and sex that were released in theaters specializing in such films), where it's common for double features to be advertised. Two, it's better to watch Grindhouse and see the two movies back-to-back than to watch each one separately. You'll get the full experience of seeing one movie trailer, the first feature film, more trailers, and the second feature presentation all in one continuous sitting. Believe me. It's a lot of fun.
Grindhouse begins with a cheesy-looking announcement for "Prevues of Coming Attractions," followed by a trailer for a bloody action movie called Machete, in which Danny Trejo as the title character goes after an American politician with a strong anti-immigration stance. (Note: At the time of Grindhouse's original release, Machete was really a fake trailer. A few years later, Robert Rodriguez would make an actual Machete movie.) After that, it's time for the feature presentation, announced in another cheesy-looking graphic.
The first movie is the horror flick Planet Terror, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. It introduces Rose McGowan as a stripper named Cherry Darling, then sets the stage for the movie with a scene at a military base that involves a biological agent quickly turning people into zombies. There is one quick action scene here, before it stops to let the movie introduce several other characters, including Josh Brolin as Dr. William Block, Marley Shelton as his wife Dr. Dakota Block, and Freddy Rodriguez as Cherry's ex-boyfriend Wray. From there, suspense builds up with signs that the zombie threat is growing. For example, a woman gets killed by a zombie while trying to hitch a ride, and patients at a hospital are exhibiting strange skin symptoms.
The movie continues with a few brief subplots, increasing terror as zombies run amok, and bloody action as some of them are taken out. Meanwhile, Cherry has lost her leg after being attacked by a zombie and is now forced to use an improvised prosthetic leg. She, along with Wray and several other characters, team up to fight and kill the zombies. But it's not all action. There are a few interesting revelations about some of the characters and even the origin of the biological agent. There's also a sex scene that unfortunately ends a little too early, followed by an announcement that a reel is missing (go figure). As for the climax, it's what you'd expect: action-packed fun. It's made even better because Cherry gets a machine gun as a new prosthetic leg.
So after Planet Terror, there are laughable coming attractions before the next feature film: a horror movie about a Nazi plot involving female werewolves, a restaurant advertisement, a cheesy horror movie trailer that keeps saying "Don't," and a bloody horror movie taking place on Thanksgiving (with a laughably bland and dull voiceover). If that's not funny enough, there are a few well-known actors who make cameos here.
After that, it's time for the second feature film: Death Proof, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, along with various actresses, including Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Zoe Bell, and Rose McGowan (yes, her again). The movie starts out with three young women just hanging out and talking, and, other than a strange car following them, everything seems to be normal. Meanwhile, Mike meets those women at a bar and even offers one of them a ride since she needs someone to take her somewhere. (Then there is another reel missing, just when there might be a sexy scene coming up.)
Keep in mind that this is taking place for about the first third of Death Proof's 90-minute running time. After that, the horror begins. Mike is, in fact, a madman who has just kidnapped a woman. She is now sitting in the passenger side of the car that is actually a box with a metal seat. You see, this is a car modified to do stunts for films, and it's so well fortified that Mike calls his car "Death Proof." Unfortunately, for the victim, being in the Death Proof car means not being able to escape easily.
The second half of the Death Proof movie centers on another set of women, who, like the first set of women, have extended but engaging dialogue before the story picks up. One of the women, who is from New Zealand, sees a classified ad for a car on sale. It's not just any car. It's a car used for one of her favorite movies. Not only does she want to test drive it. She also wants to do a dangerous stunt that involves riding on its roof while one companion drives it. But the thrill of that stunt turns to fright, because Stuntman Mike appears on the road in Death Proof from out of nowhere and repeatedly rams his car against the women's car. Now it's an intense fight to the death, at high speed.
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino may hold separate directing and writing credits for the two movies in Grindhouse, but they do collaborate on both movies in other capacities, like producing. Even with different styles for Planet Terror and Death Proof, you can tell that these filmmakers wanted to pay tribute to the gratuitous violence and steamy sex of grindhouse cinema, and they do a good job at it here. And you gotta love the faux film scratches, bubbles, dirt, and other visible signs of a dated film that give Grindhouse a 1970s feel, even if both movies within actually take place in the present day (just note the presence of cell phones in both of them).
Overall, I definitely enjoyed watching Grindhouse from beginning to end. Planet Terror and Death Proof each earn an 8 out of 10 on my rating scale, as do the trailers, just because they're fun. Naturally, the whole 191-minute movie deserves an 8 out of 10. Again, do not watch the two movies separately. Get the full experience by setting aside three hours of your time and watching the entirety of Grindhouse in one continuous sitting. That's plenty of time to enjoy the action, blood, violence, sex, you name it. No matter what guilty pleasure it is, you will find it all here, at the Grindhouse.
For more information about Grindhouse, visit the Internet Movie Database.