Damn, it feels good to be a nerd-girl. Last year brought us the resurrection of the James Bond franchise. This year has brought us the balletic and brutal 300, and there’s still the last Harry Potter book in July.
And then there’s a little movie called Grindhouse.
Grindhouse isn’t just one movie – it’s two movies in one. The first is Robert Rodriguez’s mutant zombiethon Planet Terror, and the second is Quentin Tarantino’s talk-and-adrenaline fuelled Death Proof. In fact, Grindhouse is more than a double feature, it’s a time machine, taking us back to not so much a golden age of trash cinema – can trash cinema HAVE a golden age? – but to a time when going to the movies was not the obligation or chore it so often is, but fun in every way.
Grindhouse opens with the first of four “trailers” for movies that I damn well hope get made: Machete is a bloody Mexploitation romp starring the always scary and ever-welcome Danny Trejo. Then it’s on to the first feature: Planet Terror opens with a fetching go-go dance by the luscious Rose McGowan, then sets the stage for hijinks to come. A cliché military base next to a cliché small town harbors nasty biochemical weapons that get into the atmosphere and turn most of the populace into oozing cannibal zombies. Doing battle with the zombies are a group of uninfected townspeople including McGowan, her former boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), tough guy sheriff (Michael Biehn), and two unhappily married doctors (Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton).
Planet Terror hits the ground running and never once lets up, piling up a cinematic hot fudge sundae of explosions, gore, guts, bullets, conspiracy, a jar of pickled testicles, and a subplot involving Osama bin Laden.
But there’s more to come. Planet Terror is followed by three more trailers: Rob Zombie’s self-explanatory Werewolf Women of the SS, Edgar Wright’s Eurotrash haunted house chiller Don’t, and Eli Roth’s holiday massacre Thanksgiving. If at least one of these (I vote for Don’t) doesn’t get made into a feature, I’m going to be very annoyed.
But there’s even more! Next up is Quentin Tarantino’s homage to fast car features, Death Proof. Unlike Planet Terror, Death Proof takes a while to get going (and in doing so is much more true to the way grindhouse movies really were – most of them have some really slow bits in between all the fun stuff). Death Proof follows a group of pretty (and pretty shallow and nasty) young women as they talk, hang out, and have a few drinks at a local bar. Also at the bar is Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, stealing the movie), a former movie stuntman who flirts with the women and offers one of them a ride home in his ominous-looking car – an offer she’ll very soon wish she’d refused. A second group of women that includes two stuntwomen then catches Stuntman Mike’s eye, and the result is a white-knuckle ride for characters and audience members alike.
To say more about the movies or the trailers would be to give away the surprises of Grindhouse, and I would not deprive anyone of those. Suffice to say that both Planet Terror and Death Proof do fine jobs recreating the B- and C-list movies of yesteryear, from the scratched-up prints and clunky camerawork to missing reels that leave out scenes to hilarious effect. Everything works in both movies – every actor hits the right note, with special mention going to McGowan, Rodriguez, and Russell, and kudos to Rosario Dawson and stuntwoman Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s double in Kill Bill) in Death Proof, for bringing some warmth and humanity to the goings-on.
And suffice to say that you must see this in a theater, the more crowded the better – seeing this alone or on DVD would be like going on a rollercoaster by yourself. You’d have fun, but not as much fun.
Grindhouse was the most fun I’ve had in a theater in years. If you’ve any love for genre films – and if you don’t, why are you reading this review? – go see it. Now. You won’t be disappointed.