**** (out of 5)
April 6, 2007
Rose McGowan as CHERRY/PAM
Freddy Rodriguez as WRAY
Marley Shelton as DR. DAKOTA BLOCK
Josh Brolin as DR. WILLIAM BLOCK
Jeff Fahey as JT
Michael Biehn as SHERIFF HAGUE
Kurt Russell as STUNTMAN MIKE
Rosario Dawson as ABERNATHY
Studio: Dimension Films
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I never really would have called myself a fan of exploitation cinema. Instead, I often identify myself – from a pop culture perspective, at least – as a “Star Wars” baby. But after seeing “Grindhouse,” I realized that not only was a fan of the genre, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of exploitation films.
Growing up in the Midwest, movie watching was a popular pastime. Even after the advent of the VCR, I found myself spending hours at local movie houses to check out underground films, often of the horror persuasion. Some of my best weekends were spent at a local moviehouse that would have routine 24-hour movie marathons. It was at these weekends that I didn’t just see the films, but also the whacked out trailers for all the other exploitation films not on the bill.
It was this steady diet of weird and unrelenting cinema that whetted my appetite for something like “Grindhouse.”
Fans of both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have been foaming at the mouth, waiting for this film to hit the screens. Tarantino has always raised exploitation to an art form much in the same way that John Waters raised trash to an art form. However, it’s Rodriguez who rules the day with “Grindhouse.”
Presented as a double feature, Rodriguez leads the film with “Planet Terror,” a sci-fi zombie thriller. Think “Return of the Living Dead” meets “Invasion of the Body Snatcher” high on crack, and you’ve got a good concept of this film. It follows a stripper named Cherry (Rose McGowen) who teams up with an old boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) to battle blistering zombies overrunning the Texas countryside.
Rodriguez has blown hot and cold in the past, but his care and respect for original subject matter is what makes him a master filmmaker. He turned out possibly the greatest comic book adaptation two years ago with “Sin City,” and with “Planet Terror,” he proves that it is possible to respectfully bring to life an unrespectable film.
Tarantino’s “Death Proof” is the lesser of the two films. Foregoing the sci-fi and horror for a more visceral serial killer format, “Death Proof” follows a psychopathic stuntman (Kurt Russell) as he hunts down young hotties on the road and kills them with his car.
Ultimately, Tarantino does betray the genre a bit by getting in the way of the film. These old biker and racing movies never were heavy in esoteric dialogue, but Tarantino’s films are. Consequently, we’re treated to reels and reels of not-so-witty dialogue with exploitation-level B-grade characters. I have to admit, I got bored at several points. However, when the cars start rolling down the highway, and the action starts, the movie is a real treat.
Still, even with two good films (one great and one decent), the best part of the entire “Grindhouse” experience is the intermission between them. During this time, we’re treated to three of the most accurately hilarious send-ups of exploitation trailers I’ve ever seen. Rob Zombie’s “Werewolf Women of the SS” is a hoot to watch, and Edgar Wright’s britsploitation homage “Don’t” is right off the grindhouse screen.
Leave the kids at home for this one, but check out the film with your friends if they have thicker skins. “Grindhouse” is an experience of pure fun.