Format: Bluray from Somonauk Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.
There are problems with reviewing Grindhouse on this blog. The primary problem is that on the They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They list, both of the two major parts of Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof) appear as separate listings. What’s a blogger to do in this case? If I write about the two movies here, I have nothing to write about when it comes to those reviews. Do I simply call this a triple feature? Do I review them here and review the missing scenes replaced in the full versions of the films? Instead, I figured I’d look at the part that links the two films: the fake (kinda) trailers.
There are four of them, and evidently there might be a fifth that was tapped in at some point, even if it wasn’t on the disc that I got. At the very least, it wasn’t on the version of the film(s) that came from the library, and it wasn’t in the version that I saw in the theater. That being the case, I’ll look at the four that are in the theatrical version. On the disc, they are in this order: Machete, directed by Robert Rodriguez; Werewolf Women of the SS, directed by Rob Zombie; Don’t, directed by Edgar Wright; and Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. On the disc, Machete comes before Planet Terror and the other three come between the two movies.
Machete was so well received that it was actually turned into a movie and a sequel. The basic plot of the trailer is that an assassin named Machete (Danny Trejo) is hired to assassinate a senator but is double-crossed for some reason. We are told that Machete is not a good man to cross, and when he’s left for dead but survives anyway, he comes after the men who set him up and tried to have him killed. There are a couple of moments in the trailer that seem to be what sold this as a film. The first is Danny Trejo opening his trench coat to reveal an abattoir’s worth of knives. The second is him strapping a Gatling gun on the front of a motorcycle and jumping it through an explosion.
Next up is the one that, if memory serves, got the most laughs when I saw this in the theater: Werewolf Women of the SS. This one doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I don’t think it’s supposed to. Apparently, the Nazis have decided to create their own werewolf super soldiers with Udo Kier at the helm. For some reason, Nicolas Cage plays Fu Manchu. There is a nutty vibe to it, and it kind of works in spite of itself.
Third is the one that I like the best: Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Don’t plays like a straight-up horror film, sort of Gothic in feel, but a lot more gory. In fact, if one of these had to be made into a movie, this is the one I’d want to watch. It looks like a psychotic version of Dementia 13 combined with something like Bay of Blood. It helps that I tend to like Wright’s visual style in general.
Sadly, the trailers wind up with the one that I like the least, which is Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. I have no doubt that this is in part because I’m not a fan of Eli Roth in general. Roth seems to like gore for gore’s sake, and Thanksgiving is a slasher trailer that, I have to admit, actually looks pretty authentic. I just dislike the guy’s sensibilities, such as they are.
I love the concept of this, and I’m sad that Grindhouse did so poorly at the box office, meaning it probably will never have a sequel. It sadly grossed about half of its original budget, losing more than $25 million, although I’m sure that through various sales and rentals it’s made its money back. I’m not sure why it didn’t work. It was well reviewed in general and audiences seemed to like it. I genuinely wanted it to work. Maybe it was the length, since the combined movies and the trailers come in at just over three hours. Maybe it was just the wrong time.
The trailers, though, remain about the best thing in Grindhouse. As seen in the previous two reviews, I have different opinions on Planet Terror and Death Proof; I like the first and really don’t like the second. Even though I like Planet Terror, I can’t say that it’s a film that ranks high for me. No, it’s the trailers that are the most fun. The reason is a simple one: movie trailers are fun. Trailers can make even a terrible movie look good if they’re done well. These ones are done pretty well, and done with the style of the grindhouse in mind. Honestly, in my opinion, once the last trailer has rolled, you can skip the second feature.
Why to watch Grindhouse (trailers): Some are great.
Why not to watch: They aren’t all great.