Ten Things I Like About Grindhouse

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino‘s double-feature Grindhouse was released this weekend. Since it’s a pretty non-standard experience, I figured I’d avoid the standard review. Here are ten things I like about Grindhouse (in no particular order):

  • Unpretentious: This is a subject recently making the rounds at a bunch of blogs I read, and was kicked off by Steven Den Beste at metafilter:

    I glory in my plebeian tastes.

    I wallow in the crass, the banal, the mundane.

    I feel no shame at all in in cleaving to the middlebrow.

    And I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from the impotent spluttering of those who think they are my betters.

    This is my declaration of independence from the tyranny of pretension and snobbery.

    This might as well be the battle-cry of Rodriguez and Tarantino while making this movie. What else would you expect from two guys who profess a sincere love of bad exploitation films, and made this film to revel in their unpretentious glory.

  • The Previews: Grindhouse is comprised of two totally separate features, separated by several faux-previews (one preview precedes it as well) for non-existant films, such as Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie, Don’t Scream by Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead fame), and Thanksgiving by Eli Roth. These previews are awesome, and I’m almost a little disapointed that I won’t get to see these bad, bad movies (or will I?). Particularly striking is Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving trailer, which mimics the late 1970s previews for the original Halloween. I say this is striking because Rob Zombie has decided that Halloween needs to be remade, and the preview was shown before Grindhouse started. Compared to Thanksgiving, the trailer for the new Halloween comes off as totally uninspired and boring. Quite frankly, I’d much rather see Zombie make Werewolf Women of the S.S. than “reimagine” a movie that simply doesn’t need to be remade.
  • Missing Reels: Grindhouse films were infamous for their low production values, and also because no one really seemed to care that much about the movies – for instance, lots of films would be shown in theaters even though they were missing reels. Rodriguez and Tarantino take full advantage of this, and elevate the missing reel to a legitimate art form.
  • Faux Low Production Values: Speaking of low production values, Rodriguez and Tarantino have peppered their segments with various conventions of bad exploitation movies. I call this “faux” low production values because they obviously have good production values, but actually do extra work to make it seem like a grindhouse movie. For instance, Rodriguez intentionally scratched up the negatives to make it seem like the prints were well- worn. There are several impeccably placed bad edits or poorly spliced reels (including the aformentioned missing reels).
  • Characters with names like “Stuntman Mike”: As I a friend noted, I don’t know if anyone but Tarantino could pull off a film with a major character named Stuntman Mike. Then again, Tarantino’s probably the only one who would think of doing such a thing.
  • Kurt Russell: He’s awesome. Also, it’s nice to see Michael Biehn working again.
  • Live Car Stunts: No CGI here (well, not in Tarantino’s segment, Death Proof). Instead, he hired kiwi stunt woman Zoe Bell to play herself in the movie and do some awesome stunts. It’s funny, but knowing that these stunts are really happening really does highten the tension.
  • A Seamless Intersection of the 1970s and the Present: Both films are set in the present day, but they look and feel like they were made in the 1970s. I don’t know how they managed to do this, but they did. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror perhaps looses a little edge because it’s so over-the-top that it approaches intentional comedy, while Tarantino’s Death Proof is a more sincere attempt to exactly reproduce a cheesy 1970s car movie.
  • Music: Rodriguez provides a good portion of the music for Planet Terror, and he manages to capture that cheesy 1970s feel. Great stuff. Tarantino has a good selection in Death Proof as well.
  • Dialogue: Tarantino’s trademark dialogue style is evident in Death Proof, especially in a great long-take in a diner, while Rodriguez’s Terror Planet is filled with hilarious cheesy one-liners.

The movies certainly aren’t pefect, and in fact, they’re intentionally bad. Rodriguez’s movie really ratchets up the action-packed pyrotechnics and gross-out pus-and-gore factor, while Tarantino structures his segment oddly and awkwardly paces the film (this is a little annoying to watch until you realize that it’s completely intentional, and the pacing picks up as the film proceeds). So yeah, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was mine.

I could probably keep listing things I like about Grindhouse (the above list was done in a stream-of-consciousness style), which I think says something about the film. Interestingly, there’s probably someone right now who’s writing a “Ten Things I Hate About Grindhouse” and listing out the exact ten things I did. Go figure.