Welcome to my Grindhouse

Being a huge Quentin Tarantino fan and always entertained by Robert Rodriguez movies, I'm surprised it took me a couple of weeks to make it out and watch Grindhouse. Hey I've been busy, but with poor box office results I figured that it'd be pulled from the theaters in the next couple of weeks. So say goodbye to gorgeous spring weather made for yard work and say hello to the Sunday matinee!

I grew up in Northeast Indiana, which was fairly rural back in the day (now it's more saturated with suburban sprawl then ever, but still fairly rural). The closest thing to the "grindhouse" experience I ever came was the drive-in theater showing triple bills, with at least one of the flicks being low budget horror, kung fu, or sexplotation flick. The funny part is my mother would usually sit in the back seat, with me and my step-father in the front, so she could cover my eyes during if too much gore or nudity happened. Hey I was a pre-teen kid. With the Video Age rapidly growing in the late 80's, many of these cult and underground movies I would watch in my teenage years and beyond. Even today I am still discovering gems from the era...and many bad ones too.

Anyway, here is my take on Grindhouse. A few basic plot ideas are exposed, but nothing major or that causal readers probably don't already know. With that stated, you are warned.

Planet Terror - This is not Rodriguez's first foray into the horror genre. That would be The Faculty, which is essentially a different slant on Invasion of the Body Snatchers only with teenagers as the focal point (and yes, I liked the movie). Not surprisingly, Rodriguez says the idea for Planet came during the filming of that movie and years a head of the zombie explosion in horror.

The movie is rehashes some familiar ideas from Return of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later, with bio terrorists unleashing chemicals that infect the normal population turning them into zombies. Though here is that the infected aren't really zombies, they're just sick due to the chemicals. In typical Rodriguez fashion, the movie opens up with action and is action packed until the end. Even the over the top sequence with Cherry's machine gun leg is acceptable in the world of survival. And if you want gore, this one is full of blister popping and bloody explosions full of goodness.
Every time I watch a Robert Rodriguez film, I know that I can walk away satisfied. If for no other reason, he makes watching movies fun again. You don't have to think very much, just sit back and enjoy. And I respect the man even more because he does it outside the constraints of the Hollywood machine, proving to film makers all over the globe that you can be successful with out a major studio.

Death Proof - One thing you get with Tarantino is talking. Lots of talking. Usual about stuff normal people talk about...with heavy references of pop culture from the 70's into today mixed in. This flick is no exception.

The first part was all talk. Introducing a group of female characters and getting to know the villain and his weapon, Kurt Russel in a fabulous role. Then just when you think nothing else is going to happened. BAM! The the big whammy hits and hell breaks loose. An amazing sequence of the killer and his tool doing damage.

Then more talk begins. Introducing new female characters, establishing a new group of pals. You are left waiting. You are wanting anything to happen. You are begging for anything except more talking. As the story builds up, all the talking and waiting is forgiven with one of the best chase scenes ever filmed. It ranks right up there with The French Connection, Two Lane Blacktop, Bullitt, Vanishing Point, and Beverly Hills Cop. Alright, the last one I lied about since nothing else popped into my skull but you get my drift.

But it's not over yet. With a sweet twist of irony, another chase begins and the climax happens. Abruptly the credits role. While at first this abruptness seemed a bit strange, upon reflection it worked for me. Tarantino managed to again entertain me in a way no other director can.

The wrap - While I enjoyed the movie as a whole, and the fake trailers were awesome if you got the references, I found myself wondering. Would all the praise for the film still be occurring if it was directed by a random, unknown director or would it have been released directly to DVD? Guess we'll never know.


Movie Remake Mania

Let me be about the millionth person to utter the following statement: Hollywood, please cease with the horror movie remakes. Since we all know it’s never going to happen, can we at least a reduction in the amount being green lighted or fraction of common sense to the process. I can understand Hollywood wanting to make US versions of foreign movies. Many Americans refuse to watch movies from other countries because they “don’t want to read the screen” or “cant handle the bad dubbing” – the latter of which isn’t much of an issue anymore. It is a shame however. Over the last few years, other countries have made more original and better horror movies than here in America. But to remake all of these US movies from the 70’s and 80’s is silly. No one will ever convince me there is a shortage of good and original scripts collecting dust on a shelf that couldn’t be made instead.

Let’s face the truth. The track record of remakes, or my favorite movie term “re-imaging”, and pointless sequels isn’t very good. Once in a while you get one better than the original. The Hills Have Eyes is an example, or least from what I can remember about the Wes Craven version. But most of the time, the results are far worse. Take a number of examples over the last few years The Fog, Pulse, The Hitcher, The Grudge, Black Christmas, Dark Water, The Wicker Man, and the hits keep rolling on.

The problem is these bad movies are actually making the studios money. Most of the time they are fairly inexpensive to make (unless a big named actor is involved – another increasing trend) and requires little in box office revenue and DVD sales to make money. The studios make sure the movie is released as PG-13 (like just about every thing else released anymore) so a wider audience will have a chance to spend money. Then the movie gets released on DVD as unrated with scenes not seen in theaters. What a f***ing joke! And with Premonition, Motel Hell, The Eye, Funny Games, One Missed Call, The Invasion, Prom Night, I Am Legend, Sisters, and Friday the 13th (a "re-exploration", which is another great term) all slated in the to be released in the next year, there is no end in site.

The US is in a horror rebound! The genre is back and it’s cool as ever. And maybe that’s the problem. The subject matter that was once taboo and not made for teenagers are now being remade for that same audience, only in a lighter themed version which requires little thought. It boggles my mind how a script, worse than the original movie, get produced. And it pains me to see certain CLASSIC movies get remade.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though all right thanks to R. Lee Ermey and the white painted-on tank top of Jessica Beil, was not needed. Gus Van Zant remade back in 1998 almost entire shot for shot, which the exception of a masturbation scene. That movie was a complete waste of money and not needed. Now Rob Zombie is remaking Halloween. While I am a fan of his previous efforts and was kind of excited until I found out the movie wasn’t a sequel. Instead it will be a “retelling” (another one of my favorite movie terms), but the original is perfect. There is no need to remake it. Hell I’m sure some egghead has the bright idea to retell Citizen Kane too.

If Hollywood really wants to remake some horror movies, then dig a little bit. Pick some obscure flicks, one that could use another go around. Make sure the screenplay works before going on to production. And leave the great ones alone. Maybe try and update some movies from 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Now I’m a big fan of the Jacques Tourneur movies I Walked with a Zombie and Night of the Demon, why not give these the ole remake try. On second thought, CGI monsters or a serial killer would just replace the moodiness of those films. Just forget the whole damn idea.