With the surprising and massive failure earlier this year of film-geek buds
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez’s 70s-schlock-cinema tribute
Grindhouse, maybe it’s time that we all acknowledge something.
Tarantino has not made a good film since Pulp Fiction, which itself
was well done, but kind of over-rated. Rodriquez has only two films on his
resume that could vie for kudos – and both of those, Desperado and
Sin City, were so specifically genre-driven that either you got them or
you didn’t. (Personally, I respected them more than I could say I enjoyed
Still, I think it’s a shame that the studios got cold feet and decided to
dismantle the Grindhouse movies – a double feature of 70s style
B-movie mayhem buffered by fake ads for other sleazy classics. Like most
everyone in the world, I never saw it in the theater and thus got the chance
to experience Grindhouse in the way that the filmmakers intended –
complete with scratchy prints, missing reels and clever fake coming
attraction reels. The fact the films have been scrubbed up and released
separately without many of these loving touches just makes them like any
other film being released. It is no longer a special occasion, the stories
have to stand on their own – which may not be doing either film any favors.
still haven’t seen Tarantino’s Death Proof, which honestly always
looked to be the much more interesting of the two.
Planet Terror... with its mutant zombies, government cover-ups, crazed
doctors, lesbians, barbeque recipes and a one-legged stripper with a
prosthetic limb made of a submachine gun... always seemed to be kind of
Watching the film, it is. It's
dumb, violent, sexy and ridiculous. Which, of course takes it to a
whole new level. If a film is purposely cheesy, does that excuse its
faults? Is bad dialogue any better because it is supposed to be bad?
Can everything that does not work be overlooked with a postmodern wink?
Not really, I'm afraid. Maybe, like
I said before, it would work better in the whole gonzo experience of
Grindhouse. But since the company is forcing viewers to pay for
each part of Grindhouse separately, then we have the right to judge
each part separately as well. Purely as a movie, Planet Terror
doesn't really connect.
Not that Rodriguez doesn't give it the
old college try. The screen is saturated with splattering blood,
severed limbs, oozing puss and goofy deadpan humor.
Part of the problem
a huge part, actually
is that there are only so many things you
can do with a zombie film. We've all seen the slow, shambling,
flesh-mad killing machines before. Just adding a huge amount of
gross-out shocks to it and some ironic humor doesn't make it any less
As is always the problem with Rodriguez
he only throws out his net so far
with his genre pieces – he
loves to preach to the converted but has a harder time bringing new people
to the flock.
Jay S. Jacobs