Review: ‘Grindhouse’

Glorious and gratuitous trash cinema at its most entertaining… and critic-proof.

From the 1970’s they came. Grindhouse films, full of sex, violence, and anything else filmmakers can throw in to get you into the theaters. Now, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino present a double ‘grindhouse’ feature. In Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, something is turning people into cannibalistic creatures, and only a handful of misfit survivors have any hope of saving humanity! Then, Tarantino unleashes Death Proof, pitting unsuspecting hot young women against a sociopath driving a 200-mph machine of mayhem! Along with 4 full-length coming attraction trailers, you’ll want to skip the extra-large drink so you won’t miss a single frame!

Slashers, trash films, slasher films, blaxploitation, B-movies, you name it. Grindhouse cinema is what gave drive-in theaters and run down, hole-in-the-wall multiplexes a bad name… unless you really love bad movies. They’re junk food for the eyes, crowd-pleaser flicks designed to pack carloads of movie watchers into theaters to see something they knew they weren’t supposed to. So, for two cult-status Indie film directors to bring that experience to people both familiar and unfamiliar with the genre, the experience has to be good at being bad without really being a bad movie, right? The sheer genius of it also has a built-in side effect: it’s virtually critic-proof. There will be something in both films that offends you or is simply too over the top to believe, but it’s going there anyway.

Planet Terror is the over-plotted sci-fi piece, chock full or stereotypes and subplots. There are so many characters to keep track of and how they’re all supposed to relate, walking the edge of confusion for the entire running time. Each character is defined and given their direction, but of course everything changes when the world as we know it is coming to an end. If Robert Rodriguez did anything wrong here, it was to make the production look too good, coming eerily closest to being a decent film if it all wasn’t so ridiculous.

Death Proof is the more plausible of the two films, which makes it the scarier of the two considering the subject matter. A maniac with a car is stalking beautiful young women oblivious to their impending doom, even risking his own life to end theirs. It’s sexy death by motorhead fantasy, and Quentin Tarantino pours it on. The film has two modes, talk and drive, and unlike Planet Terror that introduces characters that unfold throughout the film, Death Proof puts it all up front and then laughs in your face when you see what direction everything takes.

As the two directors have said repeatedly, grindhouse films featured non-draw actors doing outrageous things, but their films have good actors playing up intentionally bad movies. At three hours and five minutes, it goes by amazingly fast and feels like your money’s worth, plus they leave plenty to talk about leaving the theater with your friends. For the lovingly recreated experience and the players who didn’t mind embarrassing themselves just for the hell of it, Grindhouse is a fun time at the movies.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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