Grindhouse is a double feature from directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The production lasts a full three hours and consists of Planet Terror, a feature directed by Rodriguez, and Death Proof, directed by Tarantino. Also included are three previews whose releases are only a false threat: Machete, directed by Rodriguez, Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie, and Thanksgiving by Eli Roth. As a whole, Grindhouse hearkens to a time when moviegoers seeking violence, sex and horror could visit a double feature for a modest cost.
The films revive this genre in a nostalgic and satirical way. Both directors clearly have a genuine love for the tradition of horror, yet each film has a unique approach. After an hour and a half of blood, guts, gore, and spurting pus, the only thing stopping you from leaving after the first film may be the fact that you’re reviewing it. However, if you are as squeamish a breed as some, the second feature, Death Proof, warms up what bones the first film chills, though not without gangster fighting scenes befitting anything that passes through Tarantino’s hands.
Planet Terror does not fall short on any standards that favor a multitude of explosions, deformed zombies, pus-ridden faces, amputations, lesions (which will have no trouble reminding you of herpes pictures from your ninth grade sex-ed textbook) and chest shots of its female characters.
Both films are set in Texas. Planet Terror takes place in and around a military base being used to store a biological weapon that deforms many but preserves the few who have become immune to its effect. Bubbling flesh, pus-filled cysts, and the enlargement of skulls are among several traits that create this deformity. Once deformed, an insatiable desire to consume human flesh ensues, which in turn transforms victims into similar pus-faced zombies.
Surrounding this catastrophe are a series of hokey personalities and plot twists that seem to exist to parody the film itself. For instance, the chef at the Bone Shack, home of “the best barbecue in Texas,” refuses to extend his recipe to anyone, including his brother (the town sheriff), despite the threat of rent hikes. There is also a gratuitously mentioned lesbian affair between a sexpot (played by Fergie) whose role is abridged by the appetites of zombies and the wife of a couple that both work as doctors at the local hospital. This seems only to serve as a reason for her husband’s desire to kill her, using her “little friends,” a pet name for her anesthetic syringes.
Suffice to say for the sake of brevity that the second film, Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, is for the most part less gruesome than the first. Like many of his works, female characters mock the qualities of masculinity that serve its own destruction. Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a slightly disfigured stuntman who kills women because they will not have sex with him. However, certain female characters are comfortingly competent in defending themselves and their less street-smart girlfriends, thus making this the least confusing display of Tarantino’s sexual politics to date. In addition, Tarantino plays a role in both films. If the last time you saw him was as puny, soft spoken Jimmie Dimmick in his film Pulp Fiction (1994), you may feel a bit surprised upon noting that he seems taller, plumper and cockier, though his talents, at least in acting, have not improved. Fortunately, his role is small enough not to ruin his excellent directorial ability.
Perhaps it is a good thing that the three previews – Machete, Werewolf Women of the S.S. and Thanksgiving are only satirical. Their synopses are elaborate, hokey and violent, just like the far-flung themes of the movies they precede. However, Machete, the story of a Mexican assassin that fakes his own death only to come back and kill his would-be assassin with the help of a priest, is worth a gander – even if it’s only via YouTube.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Though incredibly icky, fans of horror and comedy will find a double-entendre in this double feature. The first film is especially heavy with blood, guts and pus, and the effects are such that might make you forget that no humans were harmed in its making. Once the stomach has its say, however, both films have riotous moments and serve the humor of their audience – if they haven’t walked out in fear or disgust.