Back in the 70’s cheaply made independent films often came into their own. The studio released films were drawing smaller audiences’ thanks in large part to the arrival of color television and a greater variety of entertainment that people could view in their homes.
During this time, the Blaxploitation era as it became known, saw many films become big hits thanks to the films modest budgets and subject matter that was quite different from the films of the day. Aside from Blaxploitation, there were also sexploitation films as well as action and horror films that embraced the urban and youth cultures of the time and were loaded with sex, violence, and anti-establishment themes.
The films were often show nonstop in all night theaters known as “Grind houses”, where repeated showings of prints caused them to have image blemishes as films were usually shown in a city for a week before the same print was whisked off to a new city for even more wear and tear.
Inspired by the classic exploitation films of old, Directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have teamed up to treat audience to a modern day ” Grind house” experience that comes complete with nostalgic intros and credits as well as movie trailers for exploitation films that the duo has not yet created.
The first film is “Planet Terror” and stars Rose McGowan as a Go Go Dancer named Cherry who is about to have a very bad night thanks to a deal gone wrong between a shadowy soldier (Bruce Willis), and a mysterious scientist (Naveen Andrews).
Before long, Cherry is minus a leg, and living in a town overrun by zombie like creatures, which forces her and a band of survivors to fight the deadly invaders to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The film is packed with gore, action, and enough cheesy lines to make even the most jaded moviegoer wince, yet all is done with loving reverence to the genre films that inspired it.
Rodriguez even includes little glitches in the film to give a sense of realism to the film. Were it not for the starts of today and some slightly better effects work, you could easily believe that this was a film from the era.
The second film is “Death Proof” and it stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike. A man who drives a souped up hotrod and spreads mayhem wherever he goes. While the film does not have much of the signature dialogue that marks past Tarantino films,
it does have its moments and is one of the most demented, and intense car chase stories you will ever see.
I have gone very light on the plot recaps as to be honest, the films both have paper thin plots and characters which do not really warrant much examination.
To do so would be to miss the point of Grind House as the goal was to create two modern exploitation films that were true in character and form to the films that inspired them. Yes, this film had a budget that could have created well over a thousand such films back in the day, and has more stars than Hollywood Bld. But despite this, still would be worthy of those famed theaters of old.
There were many times that I noted the bad acting, lines, and other problems in the films, but reminded myself that flaws were for the most part intended.
I compare the experience to watching “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, in that you need to be familiar with the types of film being featured in order to get the full benefit.
I for one really enjoyed myself and I loved the false trailers that were included in the film as it was great fun not only watching them, but seeing the big name stars who helped create them getting in on the fun.
If you set your expectations accordingly, than Grind House may be the most nostalgic fun you have had at the movies in a long time.
4 stars out of 5.