What happens when hungry zombies meet a psychopath in a killer car? Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino test the B-movie limits with ''Grindhouse,'' their racy -- and risky -- double feature
It should surprise absolutely no one that Quentin Tarantino’s Hollywood Hills home is a shrine to arrested male development. The bright yellow ”Pussy Wagon” that Uma Thurman drove in Kill Bill can often be found parked in the driveway. And more often than not, a riot of exploitation-movie posters covers his floors like some messy teenage boy’s bedroom. But the place that truly symbolizes the 44-year-old director’s raging bachelor id, the inner sanctum of his fanboy shrine, is his screening room.
On movie nights, Tarantino’s guest list may include fellow directors like Boogie Nights‘ Paul Thomas Anderson, Shaun of the Dead‘s Edgar Wright, Hostel‘s Eli Roth, and Clerks‘ Kevin Smith. It may also be sprinkled with rappers and fellow kung fu movie aficionados like the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, or old co-workers from Video Archives, the Manhattan Beach video store where the high school dropout got his unofficial Ph.D. in cinema studies.
Tarantino presides over these evenings like a gladhanding cruise director. There’s popcorn and beer, and it’s not uncommon for some audience members to bring their own smokable concessions. As for the films, they tend to center on Tarantino obsessions like blaxploitation flicks, madcap European sex comedies, and Italian zombie extravaganzas. Between movies, he unspools a selection of trailers from his private stash. Maybe a few women-in-prison pictures or a handful of teasers that all feature the same long-forgotten actor whose career never took off, but who was once huge in Denmark. By the time it’s all over, it’s usually light outside.
Grindhouse is the closest most of us will ever come (and perhaps want to come) to attending a movie night at Quentin Tarantino’s house. Composed of two 85-minute movies — one by Tarantino and the other by Sin City director Robert Rodriguez — Grindhouse is a lovingly bloody tribute to the kind of low-rent double features that both directors were weaned on. The kind of movies that would literally grind out of movie projectors continuously at the seedy theaters on New York’s 42nd Street.
To make the film look as authentically bad as possible, Tarantino and Rodriguez intentionally scratched their prints and edited out ”missing reels,” so that a talky bit of onscreen exposition might, all of a sudden, hiccup into the middle of an action scene. They also included a handful of fake exploitation-movie trailers (directed by pals like Roth, Wright, and The Devil’s Rejects‘ Rob Zombie) to run during the film’s ”intermission.” The end product may not be everyone’s idea of a fun night at the movies, but you might not want to tell Bob and Harvey Weinstein that: The execs could really use a hit to silence the naysayers who’ve been dogging them since they parted ways with Miramax. In any case, for Tarantino and Rodriguez, Grindhouse is a chance to relive the kinds of films that made the two want to become directors in the first place.