Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s entry is dedicated to Grindhouse, the 2007 horror/exploitation double feature co-written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Grindhouse includes two feature-length movies, Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof. Best in Texas.
GRIND HOUSE (n):
A theater playing back-to-back films exploiting sex, violence, and other extreme subject matter.
Bookended by fictional trailers for upcoming attractions, local advertisements, and in-theater announcements, Robert Rodriguez‘s (Sin City) Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino‘s (Kill Bill) Death Proof make for a one of a kind cinematic experience with Grindhouse.
Each feature is preceded by trailers of fictional exploitation films in other genres that were developed by well-known genre directors such as Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie, and Eli Roth.
In Planet Terror, go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) runs into her mysterious ex-boyfriend El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) at the Bone Shack, a barbecue restaurant (Best in Texas!) owned by J.T. Hague (Jeff Fahey).
Meanwhile, a rogue military unit, led by the unglued Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), are making a business deal with a scientist (Naveen Andrews) for stockpiles of a deadly biochemical agent. The deal goes sour when Muldoon discovers that the biochemical engineer has been holding out on him. Muldoon takes the scientist hostage who intentionally releases the deadly gas into the air.
The biological weapon reaches the town and turns its residents into gelatinous, man-eating psychopaths known as “Sickos.” Now Cherry and El Wray must lead a team of accidental warriors into the wilds of post-apocalyptic rural Texas, struggling to survive the mutated hordes.
“Hey, Pam, remember when I said this car was death proof? Well, that wasn’t a lie. This car is 100% death proof. Only to get the benefit of it, honey, you REALLY need to be sitting in my seat.” – Stuntman Mike
In Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, three friends – Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), and disc jockey “Jungle” Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) – spend a night in Austin, Texas celebrating Julia’s birthday, unknowingly stalked by a mysterious man in a supercharged ’71 Chevy Nova.
The man, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), tails the young ladies in his self-proclaimed “100% Death Proof” automobile. After an encounter at the Texas Chili Parlor, Stuntman Mike commits vehicular homicide, killing all three girls in a horrific, grisly head-on collision.
Months later, Stuntman Mike, now in Tennessee and driving a ’69 Dodge Charger, follows another group of young women – Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thoms), and stuntwoman Zoë (Zoë Bell) – a group of Hollywood professionals working on location, whose 1970 Dodge Challenger will go head-to-head with Mike’s killer car.
“I ain’t never seen a one-legged stripper. I’ve seen a stripper with one breast. I’ve seen one with twelve toes. But I ain’t never seen one with one leg…and I’ve been to Morocco.” – Rapist #1 (Quentin Tarantino)
Grindhouse is the twelve-toed stripper of cinema. It’s fetish filmmaking – a celebration of cult movies and exploitation genres like kung fu, giallo, sexploitation, car-chase flicks, blaxploitation, and spaghetti westerns. With Planet Terror, you can clearly see the influences of filmmakers like George A. Romero and Roger Corman, with a soundtrack composed by Rodriguez that feels straight out of an ’80s John Carpenter film.
Tarantino’s Death Proof is a combination of slasher flick and car-chase extravaganza: a psychosexual killer in a souped-up Chevy, stalking and dismantling pretty girls. A tribute to the daredevil stunt drivers of the ’70s, as seen in movies like Peter Fonda’s Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Barry Newman’s Vanishing Point, Death Proof shifts focus midway from an atmospheric slasher film to a balls-out car-chase movie filled with stunts and stomach-churning pursuits.
Death Proof also features a signature Tarantino soundtrack of classic songs by The Coasters, Joe Tex, The Smiths, and Eddie Floyd. While the double feature format is preferable, both films are available separately as an extended and unrated special edition, which inserts footage previously cut for “Missing Reel” gags. Death Proof benefits most from this by including the exquisite lap dance sequence only hinted at in the theatrical release.
Arlene aka ‘Butterfly’ gives a sultry, intoxicating dance to Stuntman Mike to the tune of “Down in Mexico” by The Coasters – a scene that I personally believe should have been included in the original version as a fantastic character moment.
By Using stock footage and real film damage, the filmmakers reproduced the look of low-budget movies that were typically shown in grindhouse theaters in the ’70s. Most of these films were shipped from theater to theater and generally ended up in pretty bad shape – leading to lots of scratches on the celluloid and extensive damage. Grindhouse could have easily been shown on 42nd Street in New York in the ’70s – a film that should share a marquee with titles like Cannibal Holocaust, Rolling Thunder, and Switchblade Sisters.
In all honesty, Grindhouse is one of my favorite films of the past 20 years – it perfectly sums up everything I love about movies and celebrates a forgotten era of filmmaking when the emphasis of artistic merit went to the back burner and shocking displays of excessive sex, violence, and gore were the norm.
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