Movie review – “Grindhouse” (and why it bombed)

Every so often a movie comes along that’s right up my alley (or at least seems so based on the previews) – Grindhouse was one such film. I really enjoy bad movies, and also the double feature atmosphere of the drive in is fun as well. (Not sure if a Grindhouse is exactly like a drive-in, but I found the presentation to be very drive-in like, personally.)

So what follows is my review of both the movies found in Grindhouse – Planet Terror and Death Proof – and also my speculation as to why it bombed.

Alright so Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decided to make this double feature movie thing. It contains (2) 90 minute movies and fake trailers in the front and middle. (Fans of my podcast no doubt know that I love fake trailers.) One thing I was confused by in both films was the fact they were supposed to be like old Grindhouse films but both clearly took place in present day and used modern effects (Planet Terror especially). Not a huge deal, but not what I was expecting.

The first is for a “Mexican Revenge Film” called Machete. It’s pretty funny, especially the part where the bad guy asks “where are my wife and daughter?” and it cuts to our hero with them naked in his pool. Machetes are thrown, explosions occur and much fun is had by all. Apparently they’re actually making this into a direct-to-video movie this fall, too bad Rodriguez will be too busy with Sin City 2 to direct.

We then move onto Rodriguez’s movie entitled “Planet Terror”. Depsite what most critics say this is easily and by far the better of the two films – because it’s fun. The basic plot is that a zombie virus is on the loose in a small Texan town (which apparently is Bruce Willis’s fault because he contracted it from Osama Bin Laden or, eh, who cares?) The movie sets up your usual host of characters including a young bad boy, crusty town sheriff (Michael Biehn, whom it’s good to see working) ex girlfriend / nurse turned stripper (Rose McGowan from Charmed or as I like to call it “Buffy with less money but hotter women”) and some other fun characters along the way.

I don’t see how anyone couldn’t enjoy this.

The plot is nothing special of course but the action and gore is well done and a lot of fun. Rodriguez has set out to make a John Carpenter-esque early 80’s film and it is quite authentic, right down to the cheesy synthesized music. Almost every scene is grainy, scratched and looks like a film reel that’s knocking around cheap theatres for years. A “missing reel” is fun as it cuts during a love scene and resumes with the entire building mysteriously on fire.

What this movie really reminded of was 2006’s “Slither”. That was an OK movie but it tried way too hard to become a camp classic like “Lake Placid”. Planet Terror, on the other hand, is very solid and remembered that even if it was trying to be bad it still had to be entertaining. Of course the big gag is that Cherry Darling (McGowan) loses a leg early on. Zombies eat it, in case you were wondering. Anyway, she spends a good deal of the movie with a simple wooden peg (which makes for a hilarious sight gag during the love scene) but of course in Act 3 she gets an M16 installed, complete with the 35mm grenade launcher attachment. (Said grenade launcher,despite being single shot, is never seen being reloaded. But who cares?)

All in all Planet Terror is a good time and a movie I would definately watch again. Other highlights include everyone’s favorite Black Eyed Peas ex-backup singer Fergie getting eaten by zombies, a really disgusting scene with Quentin Tarantino, a helicopter mowing down zombies with the blades and of course the opening credits which consist of McGowan pole-dancing for 5 minutes, albiet in what I like to call “Michael Bay Stripper” fashion (clothed).

We then get the intermission which consists of several trailers, one of the better ones being Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving”. Quite disgusting and funny, especially the scene with a trampoline. Again it’s funny to see the old fashioned bits of film they used to show at the drive in, like the animations and 70’s style graphics. I laughed quite hard at what was meant to be an ad for a local restaurant. It was spot on, with the insert shots of the slightly-off-frame entrees and cheesy music. Even funnier to think it was probably just Robert Rodriguez cooking things in that kitchen we see on all his DVD’s and then just shooting quick frames of it on a table.

OK at this point you’re best off ejecting the DVD (I say this as it’s probably already gone from most theatres) because Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” is a complete snore-fest. Yes it has some cool car chases, but you’re forced to sit through so much BS to get to them it hardly seems worth it. Worse yet, this being the second movie of the “Grindhouse” it drags the whole thing down. Death Proof is like 2 movies in one, the plot of each being a stunt car driver named Stuntman Mike (played by also good to see on screen Kurt Russell) terrorizes woman with his car which is rigged to be – get this – Death Proof! (we have a title!)

Kurt Russel, wishing they’d make Tombstone 2.

In half one (which some speculate occurs after half two in true non-linear QT fashion) a group of women go out to a bar to meet a guy, or something. There is a LOT of inane babble going on here. For starters we spend about 5 minutes as they drive around in a car talking about men, scoring weed and some other crap I can’t quite recall. They then go to a restaurant where they spend another 10-15 minutes discussing how they’re going to try and set up their friend. They finally reach the bar where – believe it or not – they continue to talk and babble for another good 20 minutes. We also get close up continuous shots of entire text messages being typed out. Not quite as exciting as a woman with a machine gun leg, call me nuts. Apparently QT loves writing dialog for women (and showing their feet) but I didn’t see a single scene where all 3 of them went to the bathroom at the same time so the believability is zilch in my book.

FINALLY our bad guy shows up, stalks them with his car and kills ’em all. Thank God! All in all not that bad, but then we move onto the second half. By now the audience is pretty winded, but this second group of women is even worse. Strike one is that they’re all in the movie business, which means they spend their first wind-bag dialog session talking about on-set romances. Crap. We then move onto what might be the most boring event in film history – a scene of them sitting at a table talking as the camera pans around them. Inane “written-by-a-guy-girl-talk” for I swear 20 minutes. You could literally see people in the theatre growing restless with the bullocks. The whole torturous scene establishes 1 thing – one of the girls has a gun. Couldn’t we have done that in 2 minutes TOPS? Stuntman Mike shows up again, much to the relief of the audience, and stalks these girls as well. The twist is they fight back and it’s pretty entertaining, the stuntwork is impressive. But the rest of it is such utter BS I didn’t care.

Quentin Tarantino’s keyboard

Critics who liked it say Death Proof is more accurate a bad old movie than Planet Terror and this is true. But most old bad movies were bad because of all the scenes where characters sit around either doing nothing or talking. (Manos: The Hand Of Fate is a good example) Death Proof has this in spades, problem is, while this is accurate it is far from entertaining. Worse, he tried to make the endless amounts of dialog clever instead of cheesy. The line “I never miss” in Planet Terror is far better than anything your ears are subjected to in Death Proof.

Now let’s move onto why this movie flopped. Part of it is because people probably didn’t understand the concept. That’s reasonable, it explains the weak opening. But the horrible second weekend can only be attributed to the crappiness of “Death Proof”. There were reports of people walking out during the second half, gee I wonder why? I wanted to walk out, something I rarely even consider. The problem is no matter how fun Planet Terror or the trailers were, if people walk out during Death Proof that’s their last memory of the Grindhouse – that they walked out.

The larger problem is none of the producers can probably blame it on Tarantino. He’s a golden boy director and they can’t risk him jumping to another studio. Thus the blame has to be shifted onto the entire movie, the ad campaign or – I love the stupidity of this one – “middle America”. I don’t know how things work on the west coast but I’m sorry if us Midwesterners don’t enjoy listening to 80 minutes of pointless dialog to see 2 car crashes.

The real kicker is that only half of Grindhouse is being shown at the Cannes Film Festival – and it’s Death Proof! Not only that, but they’ve extended it to nearly 2 hours. It’s hard to believe anything was left on the cutting room floor but apparently that’s the case. What a shame, and a kick in the nuts to Rodriguez.

So all in all, worth a rental for the first half, great fun, but if you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool Tarantino fan I can’t see the second half doing much for you.

32 thoughts on “Movie review – “Grindhouse” (and why it bombed)”

  1. It was a great flick, I saw it the weekend it came out. I agree though, Deathproof wasn’t as good as Planet Terror, car chases/crashes were great, but who really wants to watch 90% BS just for that?
    Never heard that they were actually making Machete though…that could be good 😛

  2. Ben, thanks for the heads up on this. Even thought I was not tempted to spend $9 on a ticket, I now have an idea of what to expect for the rental.

    I wish Tarantino would stop screwing around and make a regular full-length no-bullshit movie. I really enjoyed the Kill Bills and Reservoir Dogs and I wish he would keep it up, instead of the “direct an episode here, help with this, direct 20 minutes here, do some other stupid thing” crap he’s been up to lately.

    Biggest mismatch ever: There’s a possibility he’s going to direct an episode of Battlestar for season 4. I don’t even know what to say to this.

    p.s. I got it! Thanks again!

  3. This flick failed because it was based on a dead genre for a niche audience, plain and simple. Loser fan-boy marks, like Chris Gore, overhyped this movie to the balls only to look like complete asses when it sunk like a brick. Fact of the matter is, if you like this type of genre, TROMA has been making these types of fim for over 35 years and much better with an sixteenth of the budget I might add.

  4. I saw this with my friends because it was one of their birthdays, therefore I had little incentive to walk out of Deathproof since I was watching 3 hours of film for free. Full-on aggree with the excessive chat in Deathproof.
    However, the most dissapointing thing with grindhouse wasn’t the actual movie (or Movies), but the soundtrack. I bought the soundtrack to Deathproof as soon as I got home for the final car chase song, and even the damn album is full of babble! To ad insult to injury the car chase song wasn’t even there!

    On a lighter note I hope folks caught the Doom-esque rocket-jump near the end of Planet Terror.
    I also heard that, alongside Machete, “Don’t” has the slimmest chance of getting full-length.

  5. Just saw Hot Fuzz, now that was a great time. Lots of setup but it pays off. Probably the best action movie spoof since Team America (because there’s so many you know)

  6. Hihi. When we went and saw Pathfinder and 300 last weekend we saw this 8.5×11 taped up to the glass at the theater explaining the whole deal with Grindhouse. Uh, yea, so obviously Regel felt so compelled that people were not even going to UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF THE MOVIE they needed a piece of paper to tell everyone why it was grainy, and had trailors in the middle.

    So I think the whole entire point was lost. Who’s fault is that though?

    There was a large anti-Tarentino rant here, but oh well.

  7. It really baffles me how so many people did not like “Death Proof.” I understand how some people feel that way because it did not really stand true to the whole “70’s” feel, however the dialogue, apparel, and music made it fit. Also, the fake previews and coming attraction scenes helped you really get the “Grindhouse” feel. I have absolutely no complaints for this movie, even the time…HELLO, it’s a double feature, you should know what you are getting yourself into! If you are still not sure whether or not to see it then you should defiantly check out It’s Ebert and Roeper’s new site that offers high production videos on current and old flicks. Trust me, it’s a movie freak’s dream. I know this info because I work with Disney, hope it helped!

  8. I think they could have pared both movies down to closer to 2.5 hours total and it would have had a better chance. It took me a couple weeks to see it because it just wasn’t convienent to see a 3 hour movie on Easter weekend (having a funeral didn’t help)

    Also yes, a double feature usually means one is crap. We had (and there still is) a drive-in in my hometown so I know this. You get a big movie and the second is some teenagers-chased-by-a-guy-in-a-mask crap.

    With 20 minutes lobbed off Death Proof would have been twice as good. I have no problem with long movies, as long as stuff more interesting than dialog around a table is happening.

  9. I loved GRINDHOUSE, the entire concept was great. The fake trailers, the scratches and the missing reels were funny as hell. But for those who didn’t like Death Proof the good news it you don’t have to buy the DVD, and what I mean is the DVD’s are going to be seperate, the “grindhouse” experience was in theatres only. So you can buy just Planet Terror if you so choose. I plan on buying both DVD’s because the extras should be fun on both and Q.T. said in an interview when asked if the missing reels will appear on the DVD that he was able to “find” the missing reels from Death Proof but they are dubbed in spanish, sounds fun to me.

  10. I haven’t seen Grindhouse yet (wish I could), but I know that Quentin Tarantino isn’t known for being the best movie director out there. Still, though, there are those people that thinks that the only good movies are his movies. As for me, I love them (I happen to find his Kill Bill volumes my favorites).

  11. Damn, it was already at, or not playing at our drive-in. I saw it in theaters, and would have paid to see it again at the drive-in. I love the whole drive-in experience and hope ours never closes.

    I literally fell asleep during Death Proof though for like 15 minutes. I was close to leaving, but I figured since I paid 8 dollars, I might as well just stay. Plus, I had nothing else to do.

  12. The car chase song is called “Italia Mano Armata.” It’s by Franco Micalizzi and it’s available on a compilation called “Beretta 70: Themes from Italian Police Films.” This same compilation also has the song “Summertime Killer ( Ricatto Alla Malla)” by Luis Bacalov which you can hear in “Kill Bill 2” when the bride enters Bill’s home.

    If you can’t get enough soundtrack goodness, check out “Shake Sauvage : French Soundtracks 1968-1973.” The song “OK Chicago” has awesome siren and gunfire sound effects.

    Hope that helps!


  13. Dead on review. I and my buddy grew too restless by the time Death Proof fired up, after screaming at the screen to entertain us, (we gave it until the first kill), the management asked us to quiet down. Now I hope I didn’t ruin the film for too many people (only 3 of the 8 there complained), but my god, that was the most unwatchable self indulging piece of crap. My ‘film’ buddies tried to say ‘well you gotta know what Tarantino was trying to do’, fuck no, I gotta be entertained. I paid 10 bucks I only got $5.50’s worth. Death Proof was unbearable, when the management came up they offered us to stay if we kept quiet, trying to trick us to stay saying ‘the last 20 minutes are great’, then telling me I had 45 minutes to wait for that. We just walked out, they offered a refund as well, but I felt Rodriguez earned his money, Tarantino, well he’ll just ride the wave. As a B-Movie filmmaker, gotta love Rodriguez, but Tarantino, sorry, hate to say it but Reservoir Dogs wasn’t THAT GOOD…

  14. I thought Death Proof was a good Tarantino movie, but really didn’t fit in with the concept — though people have told me that that was a common tactic, to have a bunch of girlier stuff in a film just to get them out to see it with their boyfriends, and lo and behold, my girlfriend loved it. If the order had just been reversed, however, it would have worked much better.
    Also, regarding the modern setting – Rodriguez and Tarantino have said in interviews that the point was not to recreate 70s exploitation films, but imagining an alternate world where movies like that are still being made, and theaters like that are still a thriving part of the film industry.

  15. I’ll wait for the DVD release, unless it shows at the dollar cinema. QT’s movies have been somewhat entertaining in the past. When it hits Rental, I’ll check it out. Until then, if QT wants to recreate something, maybe he should try not to recreate the total “suck” he puts into some of his stuff. He spends so much time trying to be witty, that he misses out on stuff. Its sad because alot of it is obvious, and then he goes to point it out. My daughter does the same thing when she wants attention.

  16. Hey Ben…you make great mods, but your reviews need a little work. If ever a ‘review’ needed a giant SPOILER ALERT above it, this one did.

    No offense, but you should go back and read some of Ebert’s reviews to see how to talk about the movie without revealing everything about it….

    (All spoken with no malice intended)

  17. Just wanted to say that you have done an excellent job and I feel that the “grindhouse” could have done better overall.Thought that Tarantino said to wait for the dvd because the censors were making him cut out scenes. From what i read above it seems he cut out alot of “deathproof”.

  18. Wow, thanks! Probably the best/most intelligent review I’ve ever seen. I’ve been debating seeing this movie myself, but I’m currently set on seeing the ATHF movie (^_^;)

    I especially like your educated insight on Tarantino’s position with the film industry; It really reminds me of my dad (only difference is he talked about religion and how it gets corrupt and controls people who can’t know any better, but let’s not disscuss that as if I did I think I’d probably get flamed profusely).

    Also, I think a lesser reason why this movie bombed on the first weekend was because of easter; correct me if I’m wrong, but would’nt it be rather difficult to sneak-away from your family to see an ultra-gory three hour movie?

  19. Oh I have indeed seen Eragon as part of our Shitty Movie Night. It however was nowhere near as bad as Dungeons and Dragons (which is good bad) or Son of the Mask.

    Can’t wait for Dungeon Siege. Uwe Boll makes bad movies but they’re usually “fun” bad.

  20. I knew it wasn’t going to do good in theatres. Most people don’t understand the concept. I think this movie was more for RR and QT fans than both of their other movies. But I wouldn’t say Death Proof was a BAD movie. It just wasn’t what you would expect after all the corny action in Planet Terror.

  21. My buddy and I saw this opening weekend in an empty theater… and loved every minute of it. Planet Terror AND Death Proof. Good stuff! Cheesy and shallow, of course, but hey this project is all about fun.

  22. P.S.

    All the extremely divided reviews of “Death Proof” are proof that it has something going for it. Just that it can spark so many heated arguments means it at least made an impression on people.

    For a more thougtful take on Grindhouse, check out the Angry Video Game Nerd’s review on youtube.

  23. Both movies were good, sorry Ben but your movie review credit is shot when you say Spiderman 3 is amazing. Tarantino is one of the best cinema writers/directors of all time. That seen of them talking around the table wasn’t as bad as you portray it to be. Also, the reason this movie bombed is the same reason a lot of good movies don’t do well. It’s because America is full of god damn retards who wouldn’t know good cinema if it bit them in the ass. Employee of the month made $11,407,751 opening weekend, i rest my case.

    “person who considers Spider-Man 2 the best comic book hero movie ever”

  24. This one makes sence “One’s first step in wisdom is to kuesstion everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”

  25. The second time I watched Death Proof, on it’s own, it didn’t have it’s more attractive friend standing beside it making it look bad by comparison. It’s actually a really good movie. Most average movie watchers who enjoy the occasional AVP:R (rofl) or 27 Dresses (double rofl) might not have the stamina to sit through the dialog, but I personally loved it and think it has the same rewatch value as Planet Terror.

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  27. I think Planet Terror was better than Death Proof but i still think Death Proof is great. I’m only 12 yrs old and was 11 when Grindhouse came to theaters so my mom wouldn’t let me see it. but after the 2 were released she let me buy Planet Terror, it became my favorite movie. i saw the death proof sneak peak and bought it about 3 months after Planet Terror. it was disapointing compared to Planet Terror and compared to some of Tarantino’s movies like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. But it’s still a good movie. i now have all the Tarantino flics exceppt Reservoir Dogs. i dont really care for that moviebut its still good. i later saw the full Grindhouse on tv. i regret not seeing it in theaters.

  28. did you guys see the rotting balls omg my girlfriend freaked i mean she damn near hacked up a lung she like deathproof better and i liked planet terror go figure

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