One of my favorite things to do is read/find out about upcoming movies in development. So when I heard that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were teaming up to bring us a double feature in the vintage style of 70's exploitation flicks, I was pretty stoked. By their very nature, the films were supposed to be ridiculous and over the top: I was fairly certain I was going to love Grindhouse.
I didn't love it. In fact, I only enjoyed one half of the double feature. That half was Planet Terror, directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, the "Mariachi" trilogy, the Spy Kids films, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, From Dusk Till Dawn).
(Warning: If you haven't seen Grindhouse, I probably wouldn't recommend reading the rest of this review. Take your chances, if you're feeling daring.)
Planet Terror was BY FAR the superior film of the two involved, and I'll give you two reasons why. One: it was more faithful to the true intentions of what Grindhouse represents. Two: it was simply a better movie.
1. When the two directors came up with the idea for this project, they decided to try to recreate the experience of going to a double feature in the 70's, with exploitation entrenched in every aspect of the film. Rodriguez stayed true to this vision. The intense violence, gore, ridiculousness, and (most importantly) fun in this film are palpable, and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it. Yes, it's a zombie movie at heart. But it doesn't try to be anything else, and it embraces the concept of exploitation with open arms. There were definitely some parts in it where I cringed at the violence (the castration scene comes to mind), and I think everyone in the theater was pretty grossed out when the zombie boils/sores were popped onto Josh Brolin's glasses and later when a zombie wiped mucus goo all over Brolin's face, but here's the thing: that was the whole point of the movie! They WANT us to be shocked, because that's what happened back in the 70's; people couldn't believe that they were actually seeing what they were watching on the screen.
2. I'll get into my bashing of Death Proof in a second. This is the part where I say that Planet Terror was just a better overall film. More developed characters, more cohesive plot, more fun, more entertaining, more explosions, more laughs, more outlandishness - pretty much every aspect of the movie was better than its counterpart. I know - all you Tarantino lovers are going to try to cover for him, spewing crap like "hey man, Death Proof may have not been great, but Planet Terror sucked too!" That's not a valid argument at all. Just because you think the other movie sucks more (which is a lie, in case you're wondering) doesn't mean that it subtracts from the Suck Factor of your beloved Tarantino's monstrosity. You can't cover for him. You can't defend Kill Bill Vol. 2, and you sure as Hades can't defend this piece of crap.
Let's get into it, then, shall we? Before its release, I heard that Death Proof was supposed to be a "slasher movie" starring Kurt Russell where he kills people with his car. Hey, that sounds kind of cool. If the whole movie would have been Kurt Russell (one half of arguably the coolest cop duo of all time in Tango and Cash) running people down Death Race 2000 style, then it probably would have kicked ass. But alas, Mr. I'mTheManBecauseIDirectedSomethingGoodIn1992 had to ruin it with dialogue. I'm not saying that the film would have been better as a silent movie (wait a second...yes I am), but the dialogue that WAS used in this so-called "slasher film" probably shouldn't have been as long-winded - painfully attempting to be clever and falling flatter than Keira Knightley's chest. Freakin' A, man: we get it. You're the famous Quentin Tarantino. You speak like a twenty-four-year-old Huddle House coke addict waitress. You can put whatever dialogue into movies that you want. Guess what? That doesn't make it good. While we're at it, let's take a look at the definition of a slasher film, anyway. According to Wikipedia, a slasher film is
"a sub-genre of horror film typically involving a psychopathic killer (often wearing a mask) who stalks and graphically murders a series of victims in a random, unprovoked fashion, usually teenagers or young adults who are away from mainstream civilization or far away from help and often involved in sex and illegal-drug use. The killer almost always uses unconventional weapons such as blades, chainsaws, cleavers, and blunt objects; very rarely, if ever, using guns. There is often a backstory that explains how the killer developed their violent mental state, and why they focus primarily on a particular type of victim or a particular location."
(I'm on a rant here. Can you tell?) Let's run through that list for a second. The first two sentences are pretty well covered in Death Proof. Congratu-fing-lations Quentin, you did something right. But here's where (part of) my trouble with you lies: The third sentence. There is NO backstory in Death Proof at all. We have no clue as to Stuntman Mike's (Ho-ho! You're so smart and funny! Ha! Did you come up with that name yourself?) background: why he would want to kill the girls, what makes him a psychopath, what traumatic event caused his behavior, etc. If ANY of those things were present and the dialogue was cut in half, then it might not have been as terrible. Stuntman Mike is a pansy. He gets pwned (sic) by those girls in the end, and he can't take one shot in the arm? Come on, psycho killer! Step it up! And I haven't even mentioned that the ending leaves loose ends (what happens to the cheerleader? How do the girls explain the wrecked car to the guy they're borrowing it from?), the story is split into two halves that have nothing to do with each other, and it inexplicably made only a meager attempt at trying to capture the 70's vibe with the missing reels and popping effects on screen being held to a minimum.
All right, I'm done complaining. The fake trailers in Grindhouse were really excellent. Unlike a certain aspect of the show, they all understood the project's direction and really had fun and went for it. As Greg would say, I respect that. I will take this time to say that I heard they are making a straight-to-DVD release of Machete, which might be pretty sweet.
Well, that's about all the time we have for today. Come back for your regularly scheduled appointment and we'll take care of you. Read two reviews and call me in the morning. Until next time...