Grindhouse

A double feature that will tear you in two...
"Grindhouse" chews me up and spits me out
by Adam Frazier

Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) have always made their influences known, but with "Grindhouse," they pay homage to the exploitation flicks of the 70s.

"Grindhouse" is a double feature tied together with fake ads and trailers that fully encapsulate the B-movie theatre experience of their youth. "Planet Terror" and "Death Proof" take the audience back to a day when the emphasis of artistic merit went to the back burner and shocking displays of excessive sex, violence, and gore were the norm.

After a mock trailer starring Danny Trejo as an assassin called "Machete," the first act of this rousing two-headed monster begins with "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's sensationalized tribute to horror greats George Romero and Roger Corman.

Here a military experiment goes awry when a biological weapon is unleashed on the populace of a small Texas town. What does this bio weapon do, exactly? Well, obviously, it turns you into a pulsating, gelatinous member of the undead.

Now scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews) must find a cure for the zombie infestation while attempting to outrun lieutenant Muldoon (Bruce Willis) who wants to contain the infection for his own use.

Amidst the impending zombie invasion, multiple storylines unfold and float under the story's main premise: William (Josh Brolin) and Dakota Block (Marley Shelton) are suspicious of each other as their marriage falls apart; Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) tries to start a new life when she quits her job as a go-go dancer, only to find her ambitions of being a stand-up comic splintered when she loses her leg in a zombie attack.

Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn) must protect the town from zombies while uncovering the recipe for his brother J.T.'s (Jeff Fahey) tasty barbeque; and Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) must find a way to make things right with his old flame, Cherry while clearing his scoundrel reputation with the local law enforcement.

Simply put, "Planet Terror" is pure, unabashed fun. It's great to see forgotten talent like Michael Biehn lighting up the screen again - who could forget Biehn as the definition of badass, playing Corporal Hicks in 1986's "Aliens." McGowan seduces with her sultry go-go dancing and luscious red lips, and Freddy Rodriguez excites with his zombie fighting skills.

Robert Rodriguez's love and adoration for the exploitation film is on display here, as the "Planet Terror" is riddled with scratches, blowouts and even missing reels, lavish relics of the forgotten 70s age of cinema.

Everything about "Planet Terror" is on point - the soundtrack is excellent, a mash-up of Graeme Revell (composer of "The Crow") and original pieces by director/writer/producer Rodriguez. The performances are brilliant, full of depth and rich character and the gore is so over-the-top, so lavishly exaggerated, you can't help but laugh and appreciate the amount of care and affection Rodriguez has put into it.

Yes, "Planet Terror" may be Rodriguez's best work and perhaps the best part of "Grindhouse," but Tarantino's "Death Proof" is a more ambitious affair, a film that not only fits in perfectly with the embellished world of exploitation cinema, but blends in nicely with the rest of Tarantino's work.

After some mock advertisements and trailers from industry amigos like Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright, we're introduced to Tarantino's film. A mash-up of slasher films where busty, scantily-clad women are terrorized by sadistical madmen, "Death Proof" is an exhilarating tribute to the daredevil stunt drivers of the '70s, as seen in movies like Peter Fonda's "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry" and Barry Newman's "Vanishing Point."

Here a striking DJ named Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier) and her two as equally striking pals Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) find themselves on a collision course with charming bar dweller Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) while spending a night out on the town.

During random conversation with a fellow bar patron, Mike explains his car is "100% death proof," boasting you could drive it into a brick wall at 200 mph and not even chip the paint.

Lets just say he stands by his bragging, and pushes the limits of his vehicle when chasing down these nubile women, extinguishing their lives with a jerk of the clutch and a push on the gas.

This first encounter serves only as an introduction to the compelling character of Stuntman Mike who, as you may have guessed, is a professional stuntman who has a thing for young girls - and murdering them with his car. In the great vein of slashers like "Halloween" and "Black Christmas," "Death Proof" fills its lead role with that of a psychopathic sexual deviant who can only get his rocks off by killing pretty girls.

Soon Mike finds a new quartet of girls to stalk, but this time Stuntman Mike may be jumping a death trap he can't defy. Make-up artist Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), actress Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and stuntwomen Zoe (Zoe Bell) and Kim (Tracie Thoms) show Mike a thing or to about muscle cars and stunt driving.

In "Death Proof," Tarantino pays homage to those wonderful car chase movies like H.B. Halicki's "Gone in 60 Seconds" and Robert Mitchum's "Thunder Road," while also giving a respectful wink and nod to serial slashers with its dreadful pace, taking its established suspense and kicking it into full gear near the film's conclusion.

The thrill-packed chase sequences are some of the best I've ever seen on celluloid, and Kurt Russell returns to the forefront, oozing with badassity as Stuntman Mike. While not as satisfying overall, "Death Proof" goes for a more ambitious, subtle approach as opposed to Rodriguez's "Planet Terror."

As a whole, "Grindhouse" is an amazing cinematic experience and in no way, shape or doubt should you miss it in theaters. You'll be missing out on some great laughs, huge action and truly satisfying fun. Tarantino and Rodriguez are a vicious tag team hell-bent on exploiting our love for exploitation.
Reviewed by: adam