Published at: April 5, 2007, 8:36 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Grindhouse is not a movie. Don’t think of it that way. And no, this isn’t me saying “It’s two movies.” It isn’t. No, Grindhouse is an experience, something you have to go into at least partially prepared for. And if you go in prepared to see a Robert Rodriguez film followed immediately by a Quentin Tarantino film, then you might not get exactly what you’re hoping for. Grindhouse is a three hour, $8 theme park ride. And while much of it will seem familiar, I assure you, this is a ride you’ve never been on before.
Forget Robert and Quentin’s hype. They’re selling this like it is two, back to back, hell blazing, ass kicking movies that will finally “live up to the poster.” And while that ain’t exactly a lie, it ain’t exactly the truth either. They’ve somehow convinced the press and the world at large that this is two horror films – when really, it is two, very well put together comedies, jokes in the form of movies. Yes, jokes. Here both of these directors intentionally make movies that are riddled with mistakes, film flaws and even missing sections all for the sake of boiling down the Grindhouse experience for laughs. The more you know about Grindhouses, their history and practices and the more old films like these you’ve sat through, the more you’re gonna laugh or nod in appreciation.
But let’s face it. Most folks just aren’t going to get these jokes. Hell, I wouldn’t get most of them had I not attended so many Weird Wednesday’s at the Alamo Drafthouse. I’ve sat through enough missing or out of order reels, red or chewed up prints and movies that are just plain awful to get most of what’s going on. Fortunately, that’s just one layer of Grindhouse. Because beneath the layer of digital grime and scratches and skipped frames, are a pair of movies that really aim to be some good old-fashioned exploitation.
So which film is better? Well, that’s kind of the point. Ask a dozen people, get a dozen answers. There’s a good portion of folks who love the speedy pace and bloody frenzy of Rodriguez’s sci-fi zombie schlockfest. Then there’re those who dig the kitschy cool of Tarantino’s very chatty but high octane vehicular slasher flick. I’ve even run into a handful of folks who think the trailers were the very best part of the film. Although not a one of them can seem to agree on which trailer is tops.
Personally, I love Tarantino’s film best of all. Despite both films constantly riffing on everything that used to go wrong with these Grindhouse prints, there’s a point about two-thirds the way through in which Tarantino says “Okay, enough kidding around” and sets out to make one hell of a bad ass finale – something you’d expect from a real film trying to be as bad ass as humanly possible. Rodriguez’s never does that. And while Rodriguez’s is both funny and cool the whole way through, there’s a section missing that just breaks my heart – as it is my absolute favorite moment in that style of film.
You see, I LOVE movies like Planet Terror. What Rodriguez is making is not a John Carpenter knock off – but a comical knock off of John Carpenter knockoffs. Something not unlike a super badass version of The Eliminators, After the Fall of New York or 1990: Bronx Warriors. With zombies. The thing is, all of these movies (Planet Terror included) were built on the Western model of film. And all of them contain this moment in which all of the characters at odds with one another all find a common ground and put aside their differences in the interest of kicking a hell of a lot of ass. And Rodriguez thought it would be funny to kind of skip all that. And while there’s a good joke in there, ultimately it left me a bit cold because I really wanted to give myself over to the guilty goodness of it – and it just wanted me to laugh. That one moment or sequence could have changed the whole thing for me and delivered an ending that kicked my ass like Tarantino’s.
Does that make Grindhouse any less badass? Hell no. Grindhouse fucking rocks six ways from Sunday and is about as much fun as you can have at the movies. There’s plenty of laughs, gross outs and moments that make you throw a fist in the air and scream out “Hell Yeah!” And it keeps up that intensity for three solid hours. If you’re willing to give yourself over to it, Grindhouse will absolutely deliver.
But it is an experience. This isn’t a movie meant to be seen alone in the middle of the afternoon. It was meant to be seen at Midnight, with as many friends as you can get together. Hell, if you can somehow manage it, see it at a drive in, laying on a blanket across the hood of your car with a cooler full of beer. That’s what Grindhouse embodies. And if that sounds like your particular brand of vodka, then this comes Highly Recommended.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.