BY NEIL FAUERSO
As I am writing this, Grindhouse is a bona-fide flop. Immense amounts of marketing, hype, and positive reviews couldn’t save this three-hour-plus air-quoted homage to salacious trash. This is a shame, because a movie as rude and ridiculous as Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof) needs an audience and a buzz, otherwise it becomes the broke alcoholic uncle—he may be fun, but he’s still broke and an alcoholic.
That being said, Grindhouse, alongside The Host, is the most unfettered and rollicking entertainment I’ve seen this year. Yes, it’s gross (bloody disgusting, in fact), long, and a little too cool for school, but it’s the rare modern mainstream film that’s actually reckless and wild. The theater I saw it in was raucous and loud, in a good way—it felt like being at an indoor drive-in.
Grindhouse is, of course, two 85-minute films (one by Robert Rodriguez and one by Quentin Tarantino) split by phony trailers and ads. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is first. A send-up to sleazy zombie movies, Planet Terror is a dead-on evocation complete with the banging John Carpenteresque synth score. This is easily the best work Rodriguez has done—vivid, cheeky, and brisk. It’s also super-gross, with a barrage of over-the-top and especially gushy violence. Even though it’s ridiculous and not particularly disturbing, the violence is still a little much.
Next is a series of hilarious and absurd trailers for fake grade-z genre films. Best of all is Eli Roth’s perverse Thanksgiving and Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Tarantino’s Death Proof concludes the epic and begins very slowly, which is a relief after all the blood. A revenge thriller and an ode to female empowerment all wrapped up in a muscle-car flick, Death Proof ends with the most exhilarating chase since the massively underrated Point Break.
So what’s the point of all this? Beyond being a holographic, if obviously synthetic recreation of a very specific movie-going experience, Grindhouse is an effective film because Tarantino and Rodriguez embrace all that was interesting about these low-budget genre films—velocity, gallows humor, quick endings, and unashamed interest in the lurid. Grindhouse is dirty fun, and though it tanked in theaters, I’m sure it will do quite well in the privacy of one’s home. A-