Grind, slash and smash

April 25, 2007, midnight | By Boris Vassilev | 14 years, 5 months ago

"Grindhouse" directors deliver the best of zombie entrails and car wreckage

Recently, several articles in notable magazines such as "Time" have discussed the ill effects of kill-thrill films on young people today. Apparently, directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez failed to reference these stories as they prepared to release this year's only double feature and arguably most absurdly violent movie, "Grindhouse."

"Grindhouse" is not a film for the easily, or even mildly easily, offended, or those not within reach of an airplane courtesy bag. As the name suggests, "Grindhouse" is a B-list movie duo of the "grindhouse" standard and genre, one that forsakes traditional movie tactics for an alternatingly shocking and humorous approach. Exploding zombies are equally at home here as are go-go dancer peg leg quips.

The plots of both films are relatively straightforward. Similar to his previous film achievements like "Sin City," director Rodriguez's "Planet Horror" follows the plotlines of several different character groups that inevitably run into one another. Survivors including gun slinging, bad-ass El Ray (Freddy Rodriguez), former go-go-dancer-with-a-machine-gun-leg Cherry (Rose McGowan) and syringe-wielding doctor Dakota Block (Marley Shelton), among a rabble of other odd characters hack, shoot, slash, detonate and pulverize their way through the zombified inhabitants of a small town. Naturally, as any B-list movie fan would know, the zombie infection is the result of evil military testing and is going to take over the world. Obviously.

The beginning of the film is reminiscent of modern death-thrillers, with terrifying suspense and a kind of sinister secrecy combined with a gruesome factor that keeps the viewer frightened through the ghastly sequences. Somewhere near the middle of "Planet Horror," however, something snaps, and the movie transitions from a downright terrifying psychotic adventure to a hilarious zombie pureeing flick.

No doubt, the gore and shock scenes are still there, but the suspense and fear seems completely dissipated by absurdities like Cherry's automatic rifle leg and the undead exploding like over-sized ketchup packets. Horrific, yes, but strangely enough, also incredibly entertaining.

Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" is the more stylized and less abrupt of the two thrillers. The film follows Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who uses his "death proof" Chevy Nova stunt car to brutally collide with and kill several young women early in the film, but meets his match in girlfriend gear-heads Zoe (Zoe Bell), Kim (Tracie Thoms) and their innocent friend Abernathy (Rosario Dawson) as they take a joyride in an antique muscle car. Unlike Tarantino's usual style of directing, this film is paced slowly, with many of the shots focusing on the characters and background connections between them, instead of the usual blood and guts. But when there are action scenes, they are absolutely gripping with extreme car stunts and an ultimately gratifying, if appalling, ending.

The most amusing parts of the double feature marathon are the faux film clips nestled before and between the two films. They range in absurdity from retro advertisement footage to previews for horror flicks about female Nazi uber-werewolves – "Werewolf Women of the SS" - and politically incorrect immigrant hit men with large blades – "Machete."

Actors are often present as characters in both films, with vastly different roles, though owing to the nature of the double feature, they are always short in lifespan. McGowan plays the notorious one-legged gun woman in "Planet Horror" and one of the Stuntman Mike's victims in "Death Proof." Tarantino himself is one of the zombies in "Planet Horror" and a bartender in "Death Proof."

Russell manages to superbly capture the twisted mind of a psychotic killer with a car in "Death Proof," right down the bloody end. There are many appearances by accomplished actors such as Bruce Willis as a very short-lived military general and Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu, another psychopath in the "Werewolf Women of the SS" preview.

Viewing "Grindhouse," the viewers gets what they bargained for, an over-the-top blood-fest of terror, humor and some anomalous mutant child of the two. The movies are filled with outstanding action sequences, crude, but effective humor and of course, zombie guts aplenty. Thought not exactly a family film, "Grindhouse" does not fail to entertain in its own sick but amusing way.

Grindhouse has a 191 minute running time and is rated R for strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity and drug use.

Boris Vassilev. THIS IS BORIS'S FIRST BIO EVER! Squirrels in the Montgomery Blair area have recently filed a restraining order against Boris. He copped their nuts and borrowed their hairstyles. (Just look at his legs!) More »

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