April 20th, 2008
This is a review of Grindhouse, the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double bill. It screened at The Duke of York’s in April 2008.
Grindhouse is two films back to back, Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. The two directors wanted to recreate the hedonistic days of dirty fleapit cinema’s known as ‘Grindhouses’ that were big in the 70′s and would show 2 low budget films for drunk and stoned people at around midnight. The film recreates the experience by adding trailers for non-existent films, and applying some effects to the two films to make the prints seem worn and damaged.
Grindhouse is not a film thats easy to see, after being released in the US its owners Miramax decided that the concept didn’t really work and released the two films separately as extended versions. The trailers were cut completely. This release is a one off tour of the UK with the film playing in its original form at arthouse cinema’s around the country.
As an experience I think this film works well, especially when seen in the cinema. Whilst 3 hours is a long time to be watching trashy films, the fact there are 2 separate ones makes it feel like less of an ordeal than it might.
The broken reel effects, prints burning out, missing scenes and skipping dialog did work well and added to the whole effect. They aren’t constant, throughout much of the film the print looks pretty close to perfect, and I imagine too much would have become a bit overwhelming and turned a fake poor experience into an actual poor experience. Just right I say.
The trailers are lots of fun, with Machette being especially memorable, with racial steretypes and a killer priest. Indeed, it looked like it might be a far better film than either of those made. Another very funny trailer for a film ‘Don’t’ stars lots of British actors, such as Simon Pegg and Mark Gattiss although many are barely recognisable. Eli Roth’s trailer for Thanksgiving involves an unforgettable moment involving a cheerleader and a large spike. Hero’s this ain’t!
Planet Terror opens the set and is a gory over the top horror with some truly unpleasent scenes, the worst of which must be the sight of Quentin Tarantino attempting to rape Rose Mcgowan with a rotten festering penis. Unlike the Hostels and Saws though, none of this looks realistic and everything is very clearly fake.
The basic premise of Planet Terror is that zombies are once again taking over the planet. There is some topical stuff about Iraq in there too – the film is very much set in the present day. The plot is pretty much a backdrop on which to hang some visual candy though so its not worth getting into or trying to decipher.
There’s not much more to say about it really, the acting is purposefully bad, if your squeamish there’s loads to put you off your popcorn, the dialog is amusing in places although there isn’t much of it. I personally preffered Death Proof, but I think thats very much down to individual tastes. Some will love this, others will definitely hate it, and most I feel will be indifferent.
Death Proof is the second film, and having seen the full version I can say it works much better as this shorter edited incarnation. This film is about a man ‘Stuntman Mike’ who chases women in his specially fitted ‘death proof’ car. This sets the scene for lots of long car chases, some crazy stunts and despite the films title, plenty of deaths.
Death proof is a much easier film to stomach that Planet Terror, its light on gore and as usual with Tarantino its full of dialogue. Whereas in Planet Terror, nobody really speaks much, Death Proof has some very long scenes where groups of girls basically talk rubbish. In the extended version this overwhelmed the film and undermined the car chases which are truly amazing. In this version the dialogue made the film feel more realistic which had the opposite effect of adding to the power of the car chases. So in all, a great improvement.
The music in Death Proof is, as usual with Tarantino, second to none. There’s lots of artists on here I’d like to find out more about and the soundtrack is well worth buying. Planet Terror seemed to have lots of instrumental tracks written by Rodriguez himself, but Death Proof’s is pretty much all independently sourced songs.
This is a good experience, neither film is amazing on its own, but together you end up with fantastic value for money, and lots of fun. There’s plenty to dislike and I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but if your a fan of either Tarantino or Rodriguez then make sure you get along and see this while you can.
You can see Grindhouse in Brighton at The Duke of Yorks on Friday May 30th at 11:30PM.
Grindhouse is also playing at cinemas all over the UK during April, May and June 2008. Each town seems to only get one screening so be quick – check the full listings on the Grindhouse UK tour myspace page.