Directed By: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez
Tag line: "The Sleaze-Filled Saga of an Exploitation Double Feature"
Trivia: "Fake" exploitation trailers that are featured in this film were directed by Robert Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Eli Roth
Released in 2007, Grindhouse was a collaborative effort between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino designed to replicate a ‘70s-era double feature. With two films joined together by four “faux” trailers, Grindhouse is the ultimate movie experience.
The first feature, directed by Rodriguez, is Planet Terror, in which a toxic gas infects an entire Texas community, transforming the population into flesh-eating, zombie-like creatures. A small group of survivors, led by El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), is taken into custody by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), whose crack military unit was indirectly responsible for spreading the infection. Aided by his girlfriend Cherry (Rose McGowan), Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn), and Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton), El Wray goes to great lengths to escape this dangerous situation and lead them all to safety. Next up is Tarantino’s Death Proof, which follows the exploits of a deranged serial killer named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a former Hollywood stunt double who uses his custom-built car, which can withstand even the most violent collision, to murder unsuspecting young women. After stalking a group of friends (Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamila Poitier, Jordan Ladd) in Austin, Texas, Mike travels to Tennessee, where he sets his sights on Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thomas), Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Zoe (Zoe Bell, playing herself), only this time, he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Both films are a tremendous amount of fun. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is a darkly comedic tale with plenty of over-the-top gore and some truly outlandish situations: At one point, Cherry is attacked by several infected, and as a result loses her right leg. El Wray “makes” a new one for her by breaking the leg off a table, but before the movie ends, her wooden leg will be replaced with an assault rifle, which she uses, to awesome effect, during their attempted escape. Death Proof is more character-driven, with plenty of that great Tarantino dialogue to carry it along. Yet, of the two films, Death Proof also features what, for me, is the most brutal scene in Grindhouse (a head-on car crash, replayed several times to show, in graphic detail, what happens to each intended victim). Tarantino’s film also has a nerve-wracking high-speed chase, where Mike harasses Kim, Zoe and Abernathy as they attempt a dangerous stunt (like Mike, Kim and Zoe are Hollywood stunt people). In spite of their very different approaches, both Planet Terror and Death Proof are highly entertaining.
But what makes Grindhouse so unique is the overall experience, reminding viewers of a time when double features were commonplace. As if part of a “stock company”, several actors appear in both films, including Rose McGowan (Cherry in Planet Terror and Pam, a girl Mike picks up at a bar, in Death Proof) and Michael Parks (playing Sheriff Earl McGraw in both movies, a character he also portrayed in Kill Bill, Vol. 1). Even Tarantino gets in on the fun, playing a horny soldier in Planet Terror and a bartender in his own film. In addition, the two movies are preceded by a handful of trailers, each advertising an exploitation-style picture. The first trailer we see is for Machete, directed by Robert Rodriguez, which has since been turned into its own feature film (released in 2010). The remaining three promos, however, are for fictitious movies: Werewolf Women of the SS (directed by Rob Zombie); Don’t (directed by Edgar Wright); and Eli Roth’s very enticing Thanksgiving, an homage to the holiday-themed slasher films of the ‘80s.
Designed to bring out the movie geek in all of us, Grindhouse is 191 minutes of pure awesome.