Review by Dan Taylor
WARNING. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND MAY CONTAIN MISSING REELS. THE MANAGEMENT APOLOGIZES FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE.
I'm back home after a nice lunch of Vietnamese food and an early show of GRINDHOUSE. It would be a bold understatement to say it's a tremendous love letter to the days I spent at the Budco Midtown watching Fulci double features or parked at the Super 130 watching retitled trash for the seventh time under just as many titles or sprawled out on a friend's living room floor as we rewound a particularly gross scene from an Italian ALIEN rip-off from the 80s.
I wasn't quite sure how Rodriguez would handle an action/horror concoction, but PLANET TERROR is a flat out winner and immediately becomes one of my all-time favorites. From wet gore effects and a diminutive hero with a mysterious past to more sexy heroines/supporting cast than you can shake a stick at Rodriguez delivers on all cylinders. Little is left to the imagination and there's even some wince-inducing eyeball violence thrown in to make me squirm. I hate nothing like I hate eye violence. My only complaints would be that I'm not a huge Rose McGowan fan (though she's above average here), the obligatory Tarantino cameo seemed forced (though I have to applaud him getting his grisly comeuppance), and they never worked in "See you in Hell!" Alas, there's always PLANET TERROR 2: THE AWAKENING.
With the bar set so high it was almost inevitable that Tarantino's DEATH PROOF would be a bit of a letdown. Hell, if they'd kept that pace for three-plus hours I'd have keeled over in the theater. A pastiche of female revenge flicks and car porn, DEATH PROOF (originally titled THUNDER... something, the title frame disappears in an instant) stars Kurt Russell as the crazed Stuntman Mike, a psycho sexual killer who uses his car instead of his dick to get off. The segment starts sloooowww and self-indulgent but kicks into high gear once Mike claims his first victims, a bevy of mostly annoying and bitchy broads. After recovering from his vehicular homicide – which QT serves up in splendid, eye-popping fashion that makes you remember what the guy is capable of as a director – Mike singles out another group of shapely victims. Bad move.
Though it takes its good old time getting to it, DEATH PROOF's price-of-admission sequence featuring New Zealand stuntwoman Zoe Bell (billed as Herself) is nothing short of amazing. I can't remember the last time I literally feared for a performer's life in a film and Bell immediately vaults into the pantheon of Cool Movie Chicks. Add in Russell's joyful, "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this" turn as the sinister, scarred killer and the flick redeems itself with a slam-bang second half. Again, take a point off for another obligatory QT cameo and McGowan's "meh" performance as Mike's first victim.
Were GRINDHOUSE nothing more than these two fabulously fun homages to kitchen sink, anything goes cinema it would still get my rousing endorsement. But when you add the loving touches added by the directors like missing scenes, jarring jump cuts, scratches, missing reels and more I have to bump it up the charts even further.
What's that? You want more? How about I throw in a quarter of maddeningly spot-on faux trailers for such "oh how I wish they were real" flicks as: MACHETE (featuring Denny Trejo, Jeff Fahey – who also turns up in PLANET TERROR – and a scene stealing Cheech Marin as shotgun-toting priest who shows no mercy); DON'T (a sendup of the 70s/80s genre of DON'T FILL IN THE BLANK movies which features everything from diaper-wearing basement dwellers to possessed kids); THANKSGIVING (a slice of Eli Roth, holiday-themed slasher nonsense that looks like it was made during the heyday of the genre, complete with severed heads, community parades, sexed-up teens, gratuitous Michael Biehn and bared, trampoline-induced titties); and, Rob Zombie's sheerly delightful WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS, an atrocity-licious preview featuring crazed scientists, busty victims branded with swastikas, machine-gun toting werewolves, bonus Udo Kier, sexy gals of the SS, and – in a nifty piece of acting that makes up for everything from VAMPIRE'S KISS to MOONSTRUCK and NEXT – Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu.
If I was to seriously sit back and try to recall when the last time was that I had this much flat out fun at the movies I'd have to go back to those days of cutting class at Drexel, heading down to the Budco Midtown and joining the handful of drunks, bums, junkies and gang bangers who would ignore the pee stench, broken seats and holes in the roof to watch mechanical spiders attack, gates to Hell open up, Christopher George chomp his cigar, zombies rampage and titties flash.
It was good to have those days back again, even if only for 191 minutes.