Written by: thegoldensimatar
The theater is dark; the air smells of booze and cigarettes. The floors are sticky with old drinks and candy. The chairs are an inch away from collapsing under you. The projector whirls up, the lights go off, flicking, scratchy images flash across the screen from film stock not well taken care of and dragged around the country for the past few weeks…Welcome, To The Grindhouse.
But, the Grindhouse doesn’t exist any more and today’s theaters are nice and clean…well, we try to keep it clean if people acted more like people and less like pigs and picked up after themselves, you know who you are. But, that is beside the point. The dynamic duo Robert Rodriquez & Quentin Tarantino have joined forces to create…okay, I’m gonna skip this part…we all know what this is and if you don’t…you’re the sorriest fan who has ever read a review.
Right, a few things about my review. I am going to do the whole she bang in order and this will probably be my longest review so far…and for those of you who read them, ya know that is saying a lot. I have graded the whole experience, but each of the films will receive their own separate grade. I will also try and be spoiler free. Okay, ladies and gents…strap in and time to ride.
The first up on the slate is the faux trailer of Machete. This action trailer gives you the storyline of Danny Trejo aka Machete as he hacks his way up to the bad guys. As well as screw the wife and daughter of the big kahuna. The trailer is wonderful, scratched burned, jumpy and consists of Trejo shooting everybody against him and hacking off limbs with one of his trusty machetes. One of the segments in the trailer is also like a certain assassination everyone talks about. Overall, Machete is one badass trailer and a sneak peek of what is to come for the next three plus hours. Currently Rodriquez is apparently working on turning the trailer into a feature length direct to DVD film.
The first film up to bat is Robert Rodriquez’s Planet Terror.
Terror is a wonderful, over the top gory zombie film that will make anyone happy. The storyline is very simple and not to give away much…what happens is a top secret military chemical agent is accidentally released and causes the local populace to become flesh hungry and literally melting zombies…but Rodriquez rather called them “sickos.” Terror has a very simple and straight forward story filled with a cast of oddball and interesting characters. Some might call it very thin, gas leaks, people become flesh hungry creatures and there are folks trying to make it out alive. Not much to it, no social commentary like a Romero film and that’s just the way I like Terror.
Rodriquez’s script has several subplots that are covered within the span of a quick scene or skipped over completely with the missing reel. The history of the hero Wray is just about to be covered before MISSING REEL crackles across the screen for several seconds and just after that everyone’s opinions quickly change about him and look at him with a sense of awe and wonderment. Obviously Wray has quite a colorful history, but that isn’t too important in Terror, Wray just kicks ass. To a mainstream audience who wants to know every last detail this might be a big annoyance, but they can’t complain…most characters in horror movies (usually remakes) have little if no depth to them.
Things progress fairly rapidly in Terror once the first case of infected arrive at the hospital where Doc Block and his wife Dakota work. Then after that, it all picks up and doesn’t slow down much, even in the dialogue scenes.
Rodriquez shines with Terror, bringing back loads of good and bloody fun on a roller coast ride that will bring back memories of his first foray into our genre, From Dusk Till Dawn. He is able to create a chaotic and suspenseful atmosphere in his film and while skillfully balancing it with humor to give the audience a bit of relaxation from the horrors they have been witnessing.
During the sicko fight scenes Rodriquez does bring a bit of modern editing styles to the film. There are several cases of quick, frenetic cuts as bullets rip into the massive sores on the sickos and speeding up of the film when there is several people being ripped apart. One of those people, I will say…dies a very familiar death if one looks through the zombie genre.
The MTV style of editing has always been a pain in the arse for me as I want to see the action, I want to see the bullets impact. But thankfully Rodriquez does not take the modern editing fad to the extreme and not let you see the sickos getting their gory deaths. About 80-90% of the time you will watch as the 5.56 round of a M16 hits a sicko and a wound that looks like it was made by a bazooka erupts blood and puss across the screen.
The sicko killings, I wont’ get into those. For fans of the zombie genre like myself, the feeding scenes are like chocolate cake to us and I’ll leave everyone to savor this sweet and tasty dessert when they watch it.
Visually, Terror is an attack on your eyes and after Rose McGowan’s sexy pole dancing opening scene, you’ll get used to its aged beauty. Shot on digital, Rodriquez went back in post production and added in the staples of a poor film print. Terror is covered with scratches, marks, overexposure, cigarette burns, frame colorations, frame jumps…the works. But for those of you hesitant to view Terror because of this, don’t fret my friends….Rodriquez doesn’t overdo it and you can still see the movie quite well…but the aging gives the film a bit more of an old Grindhouse feel.
The acting in Planet Terror is fantastic and the cast that was assembled is awesome. Some of the big names include, Bruce Willis, Michael Parks, Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriquez, genre favorites Michael Biehn & Tom Savini, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson of the Black Eye Peas, and even Quentin Tarantino.
The actors embody the characters that they play and are able to breath life into these basically one dimensional characters. Though I would normally rail on a film for having one dimensional, shallow history characters with only a bit of depth given to the main characters. Primarily as the actors can never breathe life into their characters and simply spit out the lines and the writing is never good enough to make them nothing more than meat.
But, in Terror the cast is strong all the way around, life is breathed into them and fun ensues. Freddy Rodriquez plays the badass hero El Wray and if Terror proves anything Rodriquez can certainly hold his own in a horror/action film and given a few more right roles will defiantly become a genre badass male lead. Opposite El Wray is his love interest Cherry Darling, played by the beautiful and drop dead sexy Rose McGowan, when she gets her machine gun leg, even sexier…like Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld films. McGowan as well as Marley Shelton (Dakota Block) both play the weak turned strong woman and both play them well. But out of the pair, McGowan kicks the most badass and becomes the Ellen Ripley of zombie slaying.
The supporting cast, no matter how small the role is fantastic. Bruce Willis plays the gruff and mean military man, Biehn is the tough town sheriff who learns that Wray isn’t that bad of a guy and I will of course mention Tom Savini as the slightly bumbling yet well meaning deputy Tolo. And this is by far one of Savini’s best roles, if not his best since From Dusk Till Dawn, excluding his zombie-Blades cameo in Land of the Dead.
Strong, stellar acting by all involved and defiantly some of the best this genre has seen in a feature length film. The zombies in Terror are the most original designs and coolest ever to hit the genre since Savini’s days on Day of the Dead. Technically though they are not zombies, they are not dead but just infected people with large lesions growing on their bodies and they also literally melt. Savini pupil Greg Nicotero and Oscar Winning partner in gore Howard Berger make Terror a splattery mess that will hark back to the golden days of gory horror films, though it ain’t near to what was happening back then…the amount of limbs and flesh and blood being thrown around will sate a gorehound’s thirst.
The music of Planet Terror was originally going to be scored by one of America’s finest film composers and Master of Horror John Carpenter. Unfortunately Carpenter was unable to and Rodriquez took over for scoring. I have to say, he did one hell of a good job. Infusing old and new Rodriquez creates a guitar and trumpet based score that is aggressive during the action scenes and flips to more orchestral based music during the heavy emotional segments. A very well balanced score that doesn’t overstay its welcome nor does it override the dialogue.
Robert Rodriquez’s Planet Terror is a kick ass zombie flick that is cool as shit and a must see for any zombie fan.
PLANET TERROR: 10/10
After the last flickering images of Rodriquez’s film fade away, the audience is given a treat of three more “upcoming” Grindhouse films. First up is the true story of Adolph Hitler’s attempt to make a race of superwomen to save the Third Reich from destruction. This is Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS. In the vein of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, this trailer has the most flash and ranks as my personal favorite. The cast is full of genre favorites like Udo Kier, Sybil Danning, Chop Top aka Bill Mosley and Zombie’s own wife Sherri Moon. The trailer is fantastic and seem to have the most production value as there is a lot of German uniforms, weaponry, some vehicles, and part of a camp, test labs and even a cheesy looking werewolf blasting away with a MG42. Fu Manchu even makes an appearance, played by…well….why ruin the surprise?
From werewolf SS women to a very confusing trailer by Edgar Wright, Don’t. Sorry folks, I cannot tell you what the hell this thing is about. The most I can see is that it is set in a house that is full of nasty things. It has a grey, desiderated look to it and has the air of old Euro horror. But, outside of the narrator screaming “Don’t” about every minute, really can’t tell you much spare for familiar faces of Jason Isaacs (Event Horizon) & Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Must I really say what they are in?) do pop up briefly.
Finally, the last trailer, the one that hit the internet by storm, Eli Roth’s holiday slasher, Thanksgiving. This one got the most laughs out of the whole of the set, simply cause it is so ridiculous. The killer is in a pilgrim costume, girl gives her boyfriend a blowjob just as he gets his head removed, a human cooked like a turkey and the killer screwing a cooked turkey that has a human head on it. Its hilarious and a ridiculous trailer, but Roth at least covers the one holiday that was never exploited as a movie…up till now.
This, now, brings me to the last review of the day. Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Tarantino has called it his take on the slasher film, but Proof might have more in common with the vehicle themed flicks of the 1960s and 1970s, but it is a slasher film through and through. A lot of folks haven’t liked Tarantino’s half, but I love it. It is full of so many great things, sexy girls, and fast cars, Kurt Russell as a bad guy and Tarantino dialogue.
The story behind Death Proof is that Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) has a car you see that is 100% death proof. Only problem for his passengers…its only good for the driver’s seat.
From the fast and frenetic pace of Planet Terror, the double feature slows down with Proof as we are treated to best thing Tarantino knows how to do, make interesting conversation, great dialogue and very interesting topics. From whom to get the weed from to never calling a Kiwi and Aussie, it’s all Tarantino.
The man has a knack for writing fun and interesting dialogue like no other writer in cinema these days. Some can write some very good dialogue, but none can make it as natural and real as Tarantino can. Many folks have tried to copy his distinct banter since his early days with Reservoir Dogs with discussing tips to foot massages with Pulp Fiction. Banter is usually meant to fill up space on the script and mostly it seems far too unnatural and really hasn’t much to do with the plot. But with Tarantino’s writing as well as his ability as a director, he is able to get the most believable performances out of his actors and create a realistic world that we can go “I know those people, I have had those conversations with my friends.” Put it simply, if you are a producer and want a smart screenplay, call up Tarantino.
People have complained that the Proof slows down to a dead crawl and that is complete and utter bull. Though it does not have the same, quick pace as Rodriquez’s film, Tarantino knows a thing or two about editing and pacing and is able to keep Proof on tract while other directors might make the film lag and overstay the welcome and cause it to be one of those “had potential but fell on its face” film.
But, no one can say that it is slow once the car chases begin. Death Proof boasts what, in my opinion, is the best car chase filmed in the last several years. This isn’t Michael Bay glossy, MTV, CGI enhanced stuff…this is raw, fast paced and down and dirty chases. Tarantino doesn’t cut the chases rapidly, a tactic many filmmakers seem to like, and instead keeps the camera firmly focused on the cars and the camera movement pulls you in like you are the passenger of a small helicopter or chase car barreling right after them. The hair-raising stunt that has been featured in a lot of the trailers as New Zealand stuntwoman Zoë Bell on the roof of one of the cars, bouncing around as Stuntman Mike tries to knock her off and make her road kill. Bell plays herself in the film, so she actually does the car stunts, and the fact this is really her on the roof, with no visible safety cable and sliding around there with pavement just a few feet away makes it one thing for the books.
Like Planet Terror, Tarantino has artificially aged the film, but not to the extent that Rodriquez had done. By about the halfway point most of the scratches have disappeared. But the film still has a slightly desiderated look, but that is also mostly in the first half of the film. Tarantino also has a missing reel and it is in a place where you would probably go out a buy a plane ticket to LA as soon as the film is over to raid his house to look for it.
The acting in Proof is like every Tarantino film, top notch. There is no weak link here. Kudos to Stuntwoman Zoë Bell for being such a fine actress and showing that she can do more than just fly through the air or jump down staircases. Hopefully she can get more acting roles, she defiantly has the chops. With her are some of the other girls of the group, Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, Jordan Ladd, Vanessa Ferlito, Tracie Thoms and even Sidney Poitier’s daughter Sydney Tamiia Poitier.
The girls in Death Proof have some of the best friendship and believability of a group of thespians I have seen since The Descent. No one is the weak link here; all are fun and like the actors in Planet Terror, inject a serious dose of human nature and fun into their respective roles. Great to watch on screen and the chemistry helps keep the film from feeling overly long.
Now, we get to Snake…I mean Stuntman Mike played by the boy who hit Elvis, Kurt Russell. Russell is mean, he is plotting, and he looks mean, acts tough and mean and defiantly is one of the coolest villains to grace the silver screen in the last few years. Originally gonna be played by Mickey Rourke, Rourke left the film and Russell came on as the crazed stuntman. Russell doesn’t over do the evil and keep his anger and aggressiveness underneath the surface, its not until he gets behind the wheel of his machine does the crazy enter his eyes. Hands down, we have the winner for Fangoria Chainsaw Best Villian.
The makeup effects in Death Proof are limited. Only after the first crash do we really see body parts and blood fly and to tell the truth it isn’t a lot at all. But, the car crashes…oh man are they tasty. Metal on metal, no CGI, just several tons of engine and body tearing into each other, splashing the highways with twisted hunks of car...oh man…great stuff folks, great stuff.
The music on Death Proof is a mix of old 1950s-1970s music as well as a score that harks back to the days of John Carpenter and the heavy use of organs, drums, some synth etc. It’s a vintage piece of music that many fans should enjoy. But once car crunching time comes, that goes out and the only thing coming through is the ripping of metal…if you love cars…ain’t for you.
DEATH PROOF: 10/10
Well folks, guess that about wraps it up for me. All I have to say more is that Grindhouse can rival Masters of Horror as one of the biggest genre events of the last decade and will certainly go down as a classic for us. This is a must see for any fan of the directors or of good, old fashion fun at the movies. Its long at about three and a half hours, but you cannot enjoy the film unless you are in the theater…this is a flick for theater first, DVD second. And this will probably go down as the longest review I have ever done.
Well folks, I will catch y’all on the boards.