Review: Grindhouse

Published 8 years ago by , Updated July 18th, 2013 at 9:35 am,

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: While Planet Terror was a wild ride and a retro blast, Death Proof was a crushing disappointment and absolute torture to sit through.

planet terror Review: GrindhouseIt really stinks that I have to give a rating to Grindhouse as one film, because the two movies within that make up the double feature are so incredibly on the opposite ends of the scale in terms of a viewing experience. While Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror was an absolute BLAST, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was excruciatingly boring. We’re talking boring to the point where if I didn’t have to review it I would have walked out. Boring to the point where I wanted to gouge my eyes out just to keep myself occupied, and frankly, that sucks.

I’d purposely avoided reading a lot about this magnum opus of gore, violence and exploitation so that I wouldn’t know too much going in. I did know that Tarantino and Rodriguez are huge fans of the old grindhouse movies from the 70′s and that this was going to be not a modern day version of that genre, but an attempt to make the exact sort of film that defined it. While Planet Terror captured the best of those movies (well, if you can actually use the word “best” when describing this type of film), Tarantino’s film personified the absolute worst.

As I’ve stated before, I try to judge films not just based on how “good” they are from a high-brow perspective, but also within the context of their genre and finally on whether they are entertaining. If I were to score these films separately, I would give Planet Terror about and Death Proof , and believe me that was totally unexpected by me.

Now I’m old enough to have snuck into grindhouse movies when you could actually see them at the movies, so when Grindhouse started with the old “Previews of coming attractions” on the screen with the undulating psychedelic background my face lit up with an immediate smile. I was instantly transported back to the early 70′s (yes, I’m THAT old) and then came the fake trailer for Machete, which broadened the smile on my face even more and had me laughing and cheering out loud with it’s completely period style in both film scratches, dialog, voiceover and action. We were off to an awesome start. icon smile Review: Grindhouse

The first movie to be shown was Planet Terror (which is a GOOD thing for you, I’ll explain later) and it opened with the currently hot spicy number Rose McGowan as “Cherry Darling” dancing at what was once called a “Go Go” bar, now more commonly known as a strip club. She’s obviously very unhappy with her lot in life and wants bigger things…. oh hell, what am I doing? Here’s the deal: Renegade soldiers are in a shady deal with a rebel scientist type played by Naveen Andrews (from ABC’s Lost). He has apparently had a deal go bad with the commander of the soldiers, played by Bruce Willis. Some sort of gas is vented into the atmosphere which spreads and causes people to turn into really disgusting looking zombies.

So there’s your plot. Throw in Michael Bien (The Terminator, Aliens) as the local sheriff with Tom Savini (uber gross makeup effects guru/director/actor) as one of his deputies, a mysterious young guy who seems to have a gun fetish, a doctor couple on the outs and a spreading zombie population and we’re off to the races. Once this thing gets going (and it doesn’t take long) you feel like you’re on a gore-filled rollercoaster that just won’t stop. It’s so over the top that it’s incredible… filled both with scenes that are unbelievably ridiculous and just flat out nutty that you can’t help (more if you’re a guy, I suppose) but laugh your head off, especially once “Cherry” gets a machine gun/grenade launcher strapped to her amputated leg.

If you’re into this sort of flick, when it finally ends you feel a kind of happy exhaustion (no, I won’t make the comparison) and you’re primed because you know you’re only halfway through.

Well, folks… PLEASE take my advice: If you want this to be a fun experience THIS is when you should get up and leave the theater.

I AM NOT KIDDING. Sticking around for the second film is a total waste of time.

First off, the intermission trailers, while still pretty good, are not nearly as good as the opening one, plus one of them was SO disgusting that it even put ME off. Yes, I know that’s the point of these movies, but man…

Then we go into Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Now I’m thinking, hey, it’s got Kurt Russell (who doesn’t love Kurt in an action movie?) and from what I’ve seen in the trailer I thought this was just going to continue the lowbrow fun. But oh, how very wrong I was.

Did I mention you should have left at the end of Planet Terror?

Ok, fine. You don’t believe me… movie starts with three (or is it four?) young women driving through Austin, arguing about where they’re going to find some pot for the party tonight and how the boyfriend of one of them who’s a radio personality like TOTALLY spaced on her birthday and blah, blah… freaking BLAH. They stop at a store or restaurant where one of them spots an evil looking old Chevy Nova. Same Nova turns up later at the bar where they end up. More female chatting of the type that makes most men’s eyes roll up into their skulls. Sorry, ladies but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I know that when my wife has a bunch of her friends over I have to either leave the house or retreat into my office, otherwise it’s like having bamboo shoved under my fingernails.

Anyway, we meet Kurt Russel (Stuntman Mike, they call him) and he kind of picks up and is kind of picked up by a bleached blonde. Although he’s chatting with her at the bar he can’t keep his eyes off of our intrepid group of foul-mouthed ladies. Long story short, he ends up meeting with them on the highway and it doesn’t turn out well for them. At all.

After a brief interlude at the hospital we cut to another four young ladies, all in the movie business, and if I thought the “girl talk” was bad before, I had another thing coming. They talk about the kind of stuff women talk about, except throw in that they’re foul-mouthed with the f-bomb being used in almost EVERY single sentence and that there’s kind of a macho riff to a couple of them despite the fact that none of them are portrayed as lesbians. One of them is a huge fan of an old film called Vanishing Point where a Dodge Challenger with big honking horsepower is driven, and she’s found a seller of one. She doesn’t want to buy it, just drive it.

Now eventually… eventually as in 45 long….. torturous….. b-o-r-i-n-g minutes later, Kurt Russell finally shows up again to wreak havoc on this set of women. Unfortunately by this time I was so mad at having had to sit through so much mind numbing dreck dialog that I couldn’t even enjoy the car chase and what followed. No payoff could have been big enough for having been subjected to about a full hour of excruciating boredom. I don’t know what the heck happened to Tarantino, but if felt like he was channeling Oprah or “The View” through some sort of trailer park filter. It was, in a word: bizarre.

I’ve read that overseas this will be released as two separate movies. I guarantee that Planet Terror is going to leave Death Proof in the dust as far as money made at the box office if they do that.

The saving grace for Grindhouse is that the great half of the movie is the first half, so you can watch it and leave. And I’m imploring you to do so, if you don’t leave and you end up sitting through the entire three hours, don’t come crying to me.

Of course it goes without saying that if you are responsible for bringing ANYONE to this movie who is under that age of about 16, you are an absolute idiot because how this movie escaped an NC-17 rating is beyond me, but that’s the level we’re talking folks. Pay for a freaking babysitter for this one, ok?

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  1. Vanishing Point (1971)–not The Vanishing!

  2. Planet Terror was very, very awesome, the total B-flick style movie I always crave Like Army of Darkness or Flying Vampire Piranhas From the Planet Pluto (Try finding that one, I own the only copy I have ever found, its on Beta).

    But Death Proof???? Are we sure it was Tarantino and not Winfrey who directed that movie???? I felt like I was watching a bad Dr. Phil dramatization clip for most of it. I really can’t believe they stuck those two movies together.

    I am really kicking myself for watching this one without seeing what you had to say.

    Vic, what is this world coming to??? :)

  3. I’m so glad you agree, Smitty! I keep reading reviews and comments on other sites stating that people actually think “Death Proof” was the BETTER of the two!?!

    Vellian, thanks, I’ll make the correction. :-)


  4. Good review. So Ken and I are going to see Grindhouse this week and upon looking at the show times on one of Milwaukee’s local websites I noticed a disturbing trend. 95% of the local theaters have broken Death Proof and Planet Terror into two movies. That is garbage.

  5. Already? I’d read that they were planning on splitting the thing into two movies, but I didn’t think it was going to happen that fast!

    Personally I think they’re beating a dead horse with this one… this weekends box office confirmed that “Grindhouse” has officially bombed. There might be hope for the split version overseas, but it ain’t gonna help here in the U.S.


  6. Oh come on! This was a truly original a brilliant idea. But, I do agree that Death-Proof was slow. Other than that, both were truly great homage to the sexploitation flicks of the 70′s. 4.5 out of 5!

  7. Well I’d give most of the trailers and “Planet Terror” a rating that high but “Death Proof”… ugh.


  8. I partly agree with you. The trailer for Machete and the feature Planet Terror are great. Yes, in Death Proof the first group of women talk for far too long, and the second group swear too much…but…the pop culture references, Kurt Russell’s acting and dialogue (“Do you ladies know ANY of these shows or people I’m talking about?”; “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.”), and the car chases and stunts are excellent! I work as a stuntman so maybe I’m biased, but I enjoyed both movies and they both brought back fond memories of watching scratchy prints of double features at suburban grindhouses in Auckland, New Zealand in the 1970′s. So, you can imagine how totally angry I was that I was unable to watch Grindhouse in it’s original double feature form at a cinema. Recently I bought the hardcover book about the movies. In the sam estyle as with teh films, all the pages were printed as though the edges were damaged, stained, etc. Nice.

  9. Sorry to post this nearly a year after everyone apart from Peter (another overseas latey?), but we only had the UK premiere of Grindhouse in its entirety on March 8th. And that was a one-off too. Vic, I agree with every word. I’d seen Planet Terror already and liked that; loved the s**** trailers, but Death Proof… what was he thinking?? This wasn’t even a 70s pastiche, just SLACK. I was literally squirming in my seat, praying for someone to set off the fire alarm by the end of it. Everyone’s soporific smartass dialogue coming from exactly the same authorial voice: that’s just bad writing, period. Grindhouse? Grind yer bloody teeth more like, to the extent that I couldn’t enjoy old Kurt when he was on screen, as I couldn’t get past the fact that he was simply mouthing Tarantinoisms. The gratuitous references to Vanishing Point really grated as well. Now there’s a road movie that’s truly more than the sum of its parts: an unconscious (ahem) existentialism that Tarantino can only dream of.

    He was over here last year trying to drum up an audience for the extended version of Death Proof (thank God I didn’t have to sit through that, and I don’t give a toss if the lapdance was one of the reinstated “cut reels” either). He appeared on Jonathan Ross’s chat show and Ross made some joke about his man-boobs. I have to report that our Quentin was NOT A HAPPY CAMPER, the pie-eating swine.

    Still, one bonus was that Edgar Wright was at the screening to talk about his Don’t trailer. Seeing Nick Frost covered in poo, doll in mouth, doing the Hot Fuzz handclap was worth ten quid on its own.

  10. Dentist, it does my heart good to read a response to my review like yours, my friend. :-)


  11. Vic, seeing this again after a few months, I have to say many thanks for those kind words there. I didn’t say anything at the time as I was quite taken aback that anyone would even bother responding to something after that length of time, let alone the reviewer himself.

    I check out many film sites, rarely stick with any, and almost never get involved. That meant a lot and encouraged me to post again. For better or for worse! I found Screen Rant purely by chance and was struck by everything from the general look and layout to the quality and passion of the reviews, the level of interaction from staff and posters, and the fact that unlike many sites you’re prepared to intervene with an opinion and prevent any slanging matches.

    As an example, I’ve just ploughed through that Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed thread (and yep, I read every post), and that just sums it up for me. Things I wanted to buy people a pint for, things I had to get up and have a walk round the garden to cool off about, all of it fascinating. To maintain this kind of discussion on what is basically a news & reviews site without it descending into farce is really a bit special.

    Cheers again.

  12. Big D,

    Thanks a lot bro, that means a lot. I (and the gang) work VERY hard to make this a “quality over quantity” site and I do think it stands out as a place on the web for movie discussion that is more civil than most.

    Tell your friends about it!



  13. I agree that the dialogues between the women in parts of the movie were long winded and were exhausting to sit through, but I thought the rest of the movie was fantastic. I was kind of disappointed that your review made no mention of the car chase, which I thought was one of the best I’ve seen in motion pictures in a long time. I also enjoyed Kurt Russel’s character as well as his performance. The “gaudy” production was done in good taste and made the movie a lot of fun, as well as the various “old school” feature presentation logos they presented. I bought the movie, and have watched it repeatedly when I’m in a nostalgic mood.

  14. I quite liked Death Proof. It wasn’t bad but wasn’t good. I haven’t seen Planet Terror but it is meant to be a lot better.