Thursday, April 19, 2007

Welcome to my nightmare....

Grindhouse effective homage appeals to limited tastes

I am, admittedly, a big fan of horror films. I have a thing for zombie and vampire films in particular, but have never been a big fan of the films like Saw, The Last House on the Left, and Hostel. I understand the point of the whole man-doing-horrible-things-to-man horror thing, but never saw the need for's why I have the world news. That's not to say I won't watch them, I just don't see them as being on par with the greats of the genre - The Shining, Alien, The Exorcist, Psycho...(yes, I am a film snob).

I like the films that build up tension to a proper scare, prefer them to the ones that rely on the shock value of blood and guts to evoke a feeling of horror and revulsion - it strikes me as a lazy way of crafting a horror film. In recent years I have been impressed by the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and films like The Ring, and 28 Days Later.

This was something different though from all of the above (though it certainly had elements of much of the above), and it piqued my curiosity.

The joint production of Grindhouse, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature that pays homage to the low-budget B-horror films of the 1970's was a mixed bag. Tarantino and Rodriguez were hell-bent on re-creating the 1970's drive-in experience by emulating the low-budget horror films, complete with trailers of non-existent films (although Rodriguez has decided to create one of the films), that populated those road-side theaters.

The films are what they are - Rodriguez has created a pseudo-zombie film which goes a bit more over the top at times than it needed to, but overall Planet Terror is an entertaining piece of film-making. Tarantino, on the other hand, has given us a snoozefest in Death Proof where the most likable character is Kurt Russell's homicidal maniac.

Like the same films of the 70's, little is truly scary. Planet Terror does provide some tension as well as a few laughs, as do the previews for Machete, and Werewolf Women of the SS. Death Proof offers a lot of dialog that is intended to allow the viewer to bond with the film's victims but only succeeds in making the viewer wonder how long it's going to take for the women to die.

Death Proof regularly improves when Kurt Russell is on the screen (when's the last time you heard that about a Kurt Russell movie?), and devolves into a borefest when he's off of it.

While they did an effective job of creating the experience, complete with "lost reels," footage that "melts in the heat of the projector," and scratches on the film, they have also created films that have an inherent flaw.

With a large cast that includes Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, Rose MaGowan, and Rosario Dawson, Grindhouse lists a $50 million production budget (not including marketing). This is fairly steep for a sub-genre where a movie that does well makes between $20 million and $40 million. In spite of a history of that, producer Harvey Weinstein still expected (on the basis of the names involved, I assume) to see a first weekend return in the mid 20's rather than the $12 million Easter weekend opening realized by the movie.

Yes, I did enjoy the first of the two films - but I think the appeal here is limited and I'm surprised that a movie exec like Weinstein hasn't figured that out.

1 comment:

waltzingmathilda said...

You know I had to say something...

One, I would argue that there are different genres of horror films. Not all horror films are designed to create tension. Some are simply slasher, grossout films. The type that you make sure you have a bucket o' popcorn in one hand and a coke and/or beer in the other. Nothing wrong with that.

Two, I would argue that Planet Terror did have at least one moment of tension in it-a scene involving a scared female doctor and her son comes to mind.

(There are arguments that this recent rash of horror films is a representation of the public discussion of torture and terror that we have had over the past few years. Internet video of hostages being bound and beheaded may influence films like "Hostel." Not arguing for "torture as entertainment" but would argue that perhaps these films have more layers of meaning. Personally, I feel that time will tell.)

Besides that, I can enjoy an over-the-top horror film just as much as a well-crafted one that truly bothers you for years to come. And I know you can too. I have one word for you-


But I do agree with you on the Tarantino flick. erg.