Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are kindred cinematic spirits. They both had their directorial debuts in 1992. Rodriguez made one of the 3 or 4 most celebrated independent films of all times with El Mariachi, which produced the miracle of $2 million from a budget of only $7,000. Quentin Tarantino became the cause celebre of the Cannes film festival with Reservoir Dogs, which he financed with the money he made selling his screenplay to director Tony Scott for True Romance.
The two former wunderkinds, sporting the accomplishments of 15 more years under their belts, come together for 2007’s Grindhouse, a faux drive-in double feature replete with fake trailers for other schlock drive-in fare (one of the trailers directed by Rob Zombie, who actually makes bad horror films when he’s not recording songs like “Living Dead Girl.”) Rodriguez directs Planet Terror, a bloody homage to every kind of exploitation film imaginable masquerading as a zombie flick. It is totally over-the-top, much more shocking than most bad horror films, intentionally hilarious while mimicking films that are unintentionally hilarious, and entirely satisfying. Tarantino directs Death Proof, which has Kurt Russell as a has-been stuntman stalking and mowing down unsuspecting women in his tricked out stunt car, only to meet a Spice Girls-inspired crew who prove to be his match. The Tarantino is slower and builds more to its climax than the Rodriguez, which is hopped up on adrenaline from the get-go. Taken together, it’s a long night at over 3 hours, but the time passes fast, because this is a great show.
The box office wasn’t too good at first, but the film has had a second life on home video. Grindhouse is truly a labor of love by two men who have spent countless hours in seedy theaters enjoying the fare that they are paying homage to and parodying here.