Chronicle Review: ‘Grindhouse’ stands out among ordinary action movies

Heather Rudow

Ever wonder what happened to the time when double features, movie houses and cult classics reigned supreme? Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino explore this long forgotten era in “Grindhouse.” It’s twisted and intense, and probably one of the best films to come out this year.

Comprised of two short films, Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” “Grindhouse” makes going to the movies feel like an experience. Filled with “missing reels” and faux trailers for movies such as “Werewolf Women of the S.S.” (filmed and directed by Rob Zombie) and “Hobo with a Shotgun,” “Grindhouse” is a three-hour adrenaline-filled joyride, and a real gem among a sea of same old same old action movies.

“Grindhouse” pays homage to the low-budget, exploitation films of the 1970s; films which forwent classy, artistic scenes for shock value, featuring excessive blood, gore and violence.

Keeping with that tradition, “Planet Terror” tells the story of a small, rural town infected with a gas that turns residents into zombie-like creatures thirsting for human flesh. It’s up to El Wray (Freddy Gunman), a skilled gunman with a shady past, and his ex-girlfriend Cherry (Rose McGowan), a go-go dancer whose leg was ripped off by the mutants, to gather up survivors and defend themselves against a world that is slowly turning to the zombie side.

Also starring in the film is Bruce Willis as Lt. Muldoon, whose whole military unit was infected, and Naveen Andrews of “Lost” as Muldoon’s business partner and the creator of the gas.

Though Rodriguez has written family favorites such as “Spy Kids” and “Shark Boy and Lava Girl,” it’s best to keep the kids at home for this one.

Tarantino re-emerges after a three-year hiatus with the quasi-slasher flick “Death Proof.” The movie follows the travels of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a former Hollywood body double with an indestructible “death proof” car and a fetish for stalking and killing attractive young women with it.

In true Tarantino style, the movie starts off on the slow side with deliberate, everyday dialogue, but then picks up when Stuntman Mike swoops in on his latest victims. A seemingly predictable ending soon turns into one of the greatest car chase scenes in recent history, with absolutely no special effects.

“Grindhouse” isn’t for the faint at heart, but its purpose isn’t just to shock and appall. Amid the gratuitous blood and severed limbs are moments of humor, and sometimes heart (though usually it’s meant literally).