So, Dimension decided to release Grindhouse as two separate features instead of the one film they were released as. On the one hand, this is a bit annoying as one would want the theatrical viewing. On the other hand, the movie did very poorly in theaters.
Viewers tend to fall into two camps. The ones who liked Death Proof and the ones who liked Planet Terror. There are a small group that appreciated them both…but it seems most people I spoke with either loved one or the other. I fall firmly into the camp of Planet Terror being the better of the two.
First, I think it is more successful in it’s attempt to appear like it is a worn out peice of film. The flaws and grime feel more authentic than Death Proof (which still had it’s moments). The problem with Death Proof is that Tarantino is not answering to anyone. For Tarantino, that can be very bad. He ends up plodding through an hour of dialog (some entertaining, some seemingly pointless) before pushing the film forward. It becomes uninteresting in long stretches.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, seems good at understanding his own weaknesses and turning them into a strength. Mainly this is in his tendency to get over the top ridiculous. Some spoilers coming up…
Unlike Tarantino, Rodriguez kicks his film off with a bang. First we meet Cherry (Rose McGowen) who is a go-go dancer with a penchant for crying on stage. She hates the job and decides to walk out on it…which quickly leads us to Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) and Abby(Naveen Andrews of Lost fame). They are trying to acquire some special toxic agent. At first it is unclear why. Abby is a strange guy, who when a guy backs out of a deal with him, has to hand over their balls. Yes, he castrates them. But Lt. Muldoon decides to renegotiate. In a last ditch effort to save himself, Abby shoots one of the cannisters, which shows us how toxic the agent is as several of Abby’s men melt. And now we see that all is not right with Muldoon and his men as they walk into the cloud of gas unscathed.
The end result is gooey zombies. And we all know the problem with zombies. You start with one or two and in 24 hours you have a damned apocalypse on your hands. If you still have your hands. Rodriguez populates his films with friends, stars of yesterday who now work in the TV movie and direct to video market and TV stars. And it really does work. I remember Freddy Rodriguez from Six Feet Under. But that never interferes with his character El Wray. And an absurdly fun character he is. He apparently has a past with Cherry, and they meet up in J.T.’s (Jeff Fahey) bar and grill-a place that looks like it has not seen a customer in twenty years. We are also introduced to Dr.’s Dakota and William Block. They are apparently having marital issues and treat each other indifferently at best in the beginning. Later it is revealed that William is a bit…imbalanced, shall we say. Their hospital starts to fill up with the undead.
This hospital becomes the first focal point to bring all our leads together. Cherry has lost a leg to some zombies and is soon rescue by El Wray when he and the police start banding together as a mini army. Really, to tell anymore would ruin some absurd Halloween entertainment.
The film has some great bad humor, for instance a scene in the hospital, there is this exchange:
Orderly: Looks like a no brainer.
Dr. Block: What do you mean?
Orderly: They scooped the brain right out.
There is humor created by the intentional aging of the film as well. During a lovemaking scene the film bleaches out or flips everytime you are about to get much of a glimpse of McGowan. There is a point where the film “melts” and we get a “footage missing” sign. Whats funny is that when the film starts back up, we clearly missed a grand exposition about El Wray and who he truly is. He and the Sheriff (Michael Beihn of the Terminator) are suddenly pals.
The violence is absurd, beyond that of your average video game. People melt, explode, blow up and it’s all over the top messy. All in a it’s so bad it’s fun way. Clearly they were trying to channel Sam Raimi in his Evil Dead phase. Plus, Cherry ends up with a gun for a leg. And that makes the “over the top-ness” that much better.
All in all, I really enjoyed Planet Terror, which would be a terrible movie if treated seriously, but Robert Rodriguez avoids any attempt to be serious. The result is the best “Movie with a Girl With a Gun for a Leg” movie I have ever seen. Which is saying a lot, considering how played out that genre of film is.
Posted in: Movies