Get your grind on
Rodriguez and Tarantino get down and dirty with a double feature
If you don’t know what the grindhouse was, it was sort of the urban version of the drive-in theater. If you don’t know what a drive-in theater is … well, there’s no point in explaining, and you’re just not going to get the raison d'être of this Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino tag-team ode to the sleaziest era of theater-going.
Planet Terror is an inversion of the grindhouse ethos, in that Rodriguez delivers on everything promised in the trailer and serves up a side dish of even more. A military anti-terror biological weapon (ahem) is inadvertently unleashed on a rural patch of Texas, resulting in zombies putting a ragtag group of survivors’ backs up against the wall. Pretty much anything that could occur during this scenario does, and there’s no consideration for touchy-feely sensitivities. The fun here is in the meta-aspects of the grindhouse experience, with burning film stock, a missing reel and everything but a trench-coated perv breathing down the back of your neck, his foot kicking the back of your seat as … well, it’s best not to go there. Ultimately, it’s the giddiest, wettest trashy film to come along since Peter Jackson’s Dead/Alive (it even finds a bigger lawnmower, if you get what I mean).
Bridging the features is a trio of faux-grindhouse trailers. While two are entertaining (Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS and Edgar Wright’s Don’t) one is just plain stupid (Eli Roth showing that, even given only two minutes to work with, he still can’t come up with an original idea). If you were to take a bathroom break at this point, you wouldn’t miss much. The feature runs three hours and 11 minutes … pick your break wisely.
Unfortunately, Tarantino’s Death Proof follows the trailers, delivering with the reality of exploitation trailers that promise everything, but end up being all sizzle and very little steak, unreeling in an interminable fashion that recalls being trapped on a road trip with a bunch of people that you can’t warm up to, talking about things that don’t particularly interest you while the mixtape of someone else’s choice pounds from the speakers right behind your head.
Or: It runs on longer than that last sentence.
For most of its running time Tarantino’s entry seems more driven by his musical selections than the demands of narrative, so we are barraged with a hit list of obscure tracks as his characters natter on endlessly about their sex lives (or rather, a laundry list of Tarantino’s fetishes). After a half-hour of character development and an extended Austin, Texas, handjob, something happens and then a new cast is introduced … with another half-hour of them yammering about essentially the same things. Finally, a car chase happens and everything wraps up with a coda that would do Russ Meyer proud … aside from a noticeable lack of boobies.
But then, I love zombie flicks and loathe serial killer movies, so mileage may vary.