Grindhouse: On its 10th anniversary

Bump ‘n’ grind

We have the poster above hanging on the walls at TC Towers, and it was with a start that I realized we were fast approaching the tenth anniversary of its release. Doesn’t time fly? I was somewhat embarrassed to discover, despite it decorating our home, I didn’t actually have a copy of the movie. But there was enough time to get the BluRay, and so, on Saturday night, we sat down to watch the whole enchilada – as we had done in the cinema back in 2007. How would it fare?

The answer is, reasonably, perhaps surprisingly, well. While we’ll get into more specifics shortly, the tl;dr is this: My conclusion at the time of original release, that Planet Terror was undeniably the stronger of the two, remains the case now. It does a better job of capturing the grindhouse spirit, and even in a market now arguably over-saturated with zombie fare, does enough to stand out from the shambling pack. Death Proof is great… when it gets going, and will always have a place in our hearts, for introducing us to the great and glorious talent that is Zoë Bell. That first 45 minutes though? Excruciatingly bad.

But what makes Grindhouse memorable is not just the features, it was the effort made to create an entire throwback, drive-in experience. Missing reels, damaged film, even semi-random title changes (Death Proof opens with a flash frame of its “real” title, Thunderbolt, before the “changed” one appears). If it was recreating a virtually lost era in 2007, that’s all the more so now, with barely three hundred drive-ins left in America, 20% fewer than at the time of release. Yet it still resonated with fans and film-makers. If not as successful as hoped at the box-office, it did spawn a grindhouse revival, with a number of other films, directly or indirectly influenced and seeking to invoke the same spirit, from Hobo With A Shotgun to Piranha 3D.

Perhaps Grindhouse‘s most memorable single gimmick are the “fake” trailers which accompanied its theatrical release. It opens with the first of these, and I used quotes advisedly. Because this one took on a life of its own, eventually becoming not just one real movie, but a franchise: Machete, and its ill-considered sequel, Machete Kills. It’s somewhat ironic that the first Machete ended up taking more at the American box-office than this double-bill ever did. But it’s a great way to start, setting the tone impeccably: sex, violence and a particularly grubby-looking Danny Trejo. Really, what more could you want? We then charge straight on into…

Planet Terror (2007)

Rating: B

Dir: Robert Rodriguez
Star: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton

When this originally came out, the zombie genre was still clawing its way back out of the grave: the release of Planet Terror came closer to the Dawn of the Dead remake than the debut of The Walking Dead, and subsequent attainment of Peak Zombie. [Though Rodriguez was not as ahead of the curve as he would have been when the idea originally came to him, during filming of The Faculty in 1998.] And you know what? Despite this now being a world where we’ve had World War Z, iZombieCockneys vs. Zombies and even