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Theatrical Review: Grindhouse

Grindhouse literally refers to a certain type of movie, primarily from the late 50s, 60s, 70s and very early 80s that was usually some sort of low budget exploitation film of some sort like Horror, Car Action, Hot Women (sometimes in prison), Sci-Fi, Spaghetti Western or Martial Arts that was literally “ground” out by production houses usually to fill drive-ins and cheap movie houses for a fast buck. And they never skimped on the excessive violence or nudity. These were the grade B-Z movies that later on you’d catch usually late at night on pay cable or local broadcast stations that most people would call bad movies.

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino call these things buried treasures, and I do too…

Grindhouse is hopefully the first of a franchise for Rodriguez, Tarantino and friends to sort of bring back those films and put them in the spotlight, and I hope make guilty pleasure movies something that’s not quite as guilty any more.

What you get here are two full length films, Planet Terror from Rodriguez about strippers trying to find their true calling, covert military action, flesh eating zombies, and some damn fine barbecue all reminescent to me of some classic Fred Olen Ray action, and Death Proof from Tarantino about a sadistic killer who stalks women with his special stunt car to get his own fair play dished out in the end, reminescent of movies like Vanishing Point, Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry and any number of Russ Meyer movies and 4 incredibly well made trailers for fake movies from Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Eli Roth- and all together it equals three hours of big-ass fun for film geeks.

The whole package itself both plays out as parody and homage at once, and yet I like to see it as legit as well- really, there’s still a need for these type of movies as far as I’m concerned…

Both movies are really a lot of fun and are both quite different from each other- Rodriguez’s film doesn’t let up for a moment literally being an assault on the senses from the word go. It’s incredibly well cast, starring Rose McGowan, Freddie Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, and Bruce Willis all having some real obvious fun. Rodriguez loads it up with all the physical trappings including film discolorations, scratches and warping as well as all the sound ticks that you’d expect listening to this through a bad drive-in speaker. Tarantino plays his a little straighter, not quite using all the same physical tricks, but being more of the sensibility of the guys who he’s saluting. Again extremely well cast featuring Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, and stuntwoman extraordinaire Zoe Bell amongst others. His movie is slower paced, but delivers one hell of a payoff in the end. Rose McGowan, Michael Parks and Quentin Tarantino appear in both films. McGowan is built for these kind of movies, and she really shines as Cherry Darling in Planet Terror looking hotter than I’ve ever seen her in any movie. Michael Parks is a huge surprise, playing the exact same character in both films (and for you true geeks out there, there’s an extra surprise with this character as well). Tarantino is different characters in both movies, mostly for background atmosphere in his own film, but getting a true comeuppance in Planet Terror.

But the fun doesn’t just stop with these two movies, all four of the trailers are excellent as well- you have Machete from Rodriguez featuring Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin in a bloody violent action film. Edgar Wright delivers the goods with a little salute to Hammer Horror films with Don’t. Eli Roth gives us a salute to slasher films with the excessively violent Thanksgiving. And Rob Zombie… oh my God, I nearly wet myself with glee over Zombie’s trailer, Werewolf Women of the S.S. featuring Udo Kier, Sherrie Moon Zombie, Bill Mosely, one of the many queens of the Grindhouse, Sybil Danning (oh yes!!!), and Nicholas Cage. You really don’t know how much I’d love to see this one made out in full… I had no idea that I desired this movie so much, until Rob Zombie laid it out there in front of me… I would pledge eternal fealty to Rob Zombie if he’d make this one for real…

Needless to say, Grindhouse will definitely figure in as one of my Best for 2007, maybe even right there at the very top. I truly love these kind of movies, and just hope this is something that Tarantino and Rodriguez (and friends… please, please, please… have Rob Zombie make Werewolf Women of the S. S. in full…) continue for many years to come. If you’re a fan of these guys or if you love these kinds of movies, don’t hesitate for a moment… run, don’t walk, to your nearest theatre and see Grindhouse right away… without a doubt, highly, highly recommended…

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

0 replies on “Theatrical Review: Grindhouse”

I have to say that I nearly 100% agree with this review. Great job. I absolutely loved this movie (these movies?) and part of that was because of “realistic” it was to the old experience of going to these movies back in the drive-in days. Admittedly, I only got in on the last days of those “good old days”, but I remembered the feel well. This movie brought it all back.

Plus, we had a great crowd at the theater that seemed to get it too. They were loud, cheering, yelling at the screen, and having a great old time. Nobody there was taking it too seriously and nobody was complaining about people being too loud and “ruining” the movie for them. Everyone knew why we were all there and it was fun.

The best news of all is that they announced that Machete is being made as a straight to DVD movie. I really hope this starts a whole franchise. I too would love to see “Werewolf Women of the SS” come to be. The box office numbers were sad and the talk of splitting it into two here is sadder, but that was always how it was going to be done overseas. I just want to see them not give up and make more Grindhouse.

Well, as charged up as I was for the movie, I certainly get it’s opening weekend take… I mean this is pretty specialized stuff, more at home for the film geek than anyone else, and if you try to explain it to someone that doesn’t quite get these films- they’ll sort of give you the odd look and say “Oohhh-Kay, then” I know the Weinsteins are basically saying that the public wasn’t educated properly about this being two complete films… Wha…? Every single ad that was made for this clearly pushed that this was two complete films as one big filmgoing experience… if anything else that I’d add as any sort of caveat to this after the fact, it might be that I wish Rodriguez and Tarantino had stuck more to the spirit of the Grindhouse, and made these extra quick and literally on a shoestring budget, as it is, there’s a hell of a lot of money in this film… had this been made for real Grindhouse dough, it’s weekend take would’ve been considered great…

While there was a lot of analyst surprise about the opening weekend box office, the Weinsteins wouldn’t have released this movie as widely as they had if the didn’t expect to see a return.
These guys know the value of a long investment, and this film/these films are just SCREAMING for a really spectacular DVD release. I’m sure that this won’t be a financial loss for anyone involved within the next six months or so.

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