Also known as: Halloween: Retribution (working title) Release Date: August 31st, 2007 Directed by: Rob Zombie Written by: Rob Zombie Based on:Halloween by John Carpenter, Debra Hill Music by: Tyler Bates, John Carpenter (original themes) Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, William Forsythe, Daeg Faerch, Richard Lynch, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, Lew Temple, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Skyler Gisondo, Kristina Klebe, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Sybil Danning, Sid Haig
Spectacle Entertainment Group, Nightfall Productions, Dimension Films, 109 Minutes
“His eyes will deceive you; they will destroy you. They will take from you your innocence, your pride, and eventually your soul. These eyes do not see what you and I see. Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light. These are the eyes of a psychopath.” – Dr. Samuel Loomis
Fuck, this movie is such shit.
I’d say it’s the worst Halloween film ever made and it actually was until, for some reason, Rob Zombie was allowed to make an even worse sequel.
This movie sucks because it completely destroys the mystery around Michael Myers the second it starts. It shows him as a kid and it shows his terrible white trash family. In fact, it’s this white trash family that made me realize that Rob Zombie has a terrible obsession with white trash without fully understanding it. It’s like he fetishizes what he thinks it is and then turns the volume on all of his characters up to thirty-one. Huh… maybe that’s why he made another white trash movie called 31.
Anyway, it also doesn’t help that Michael Myers is a hulking beast and he can literally flip a car over in this film series, as he does in the second one. Now I generally like Tyler Mane and he should definitely play slasher characters but for the role of Michael Myers, his level of mass was just too over the top. It’s almost like Zombie wanted Myers to be a suped up Jason Voorhees like the version from Freddy vs. Jason.
Back to the origin bullshit, it’s completely unnecessary, as Michael Myers is just a mysterious force of nature. All we know is that when he was the small child of an apparently normal middle class (not white trash) family, he murdered his older sister and was then sent away to a mental institution. Frankly, that’s all we’ve ever needed to know because the films have never been about who Michael is.
The film is also ridiculous in how the Myers family is this blatantly white trash family with thick but poorly executed Southern accents while the rest of the town is a normal middle class, Midwest neighborhood without Southern accents. Well, some characters have accents but it’s kind of random who does and who doesn’t but half the population doesn’t sound like people from rural Illinois.
The second half of the film is better than the white trash heavy first half, however, it’s just a retread of the original, far superior, John Carpenter Halloween film.
There are only two things I liked about this movie.
The first was Malcolm McDowell as a very different version of Dr. Loomis. However, like many of McDowell’s roles, he provides a solid performance in a film that is far below his level of talent.
The second was all the cameos from horror legends I love. Although, most of them disappear as quickly as they show up and it just feels like cheap fan service.
Also known as: The All New George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (poster title) Release Date: October 19th, 1990 Directed by: Tom Savini Written by: George A. Romero Based on:Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, John A. Russo Music by: Paul McCullough Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley
21st Century Film Corporation, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes
“This is something no one’s ever heard about, and no one’s ever seen before. This is hell on earth.” – Ben
Other than the solid special effects, I’m not a fan of this movie. And that does kind of suck because I am a fan of Tom Savini, the special effects master turned director.
I think what I don’t like about this movie is that everyone in it makes the worst decisions possible. Also, they’re all pretty unlikable because all they do is make dumb choices and scream the entire time with all the lights on in the house and zombies outside listening for food. I also should mention that everyone is hammering fucking boards over the windows for almost the entire length of the picture!
Now I know that this was a remake of the original 1968 film and that the script was pretty damn close to the source material. However, by 1990, zombie movies had been around for a long time and with that, there are much smarter films on the subject that George Romero, himself, had written.
While this was his attempt to start over with his original concept, it doesn’t mean that it has to be populated with really stupid, self-sabotaging assholes. A person in 1990, whether they know what zombies are or not, should still have the common sense to shut the fuck up and act like you don’t exist when there is literally death surrounding your house. No, not these dopes, they might as well have been banging pots and pans outside screaming, “Come and get it!”
By 1990, you can’t suspend this much disbelief. Well, I guess some people can because many consider this to be better than the original. Well, if I’m being honest, I was never a huge fan of the original either. In fact, I much prefer the sequels that started a decade later.
Whatever, no disrespect to Tom Savini but fuck this movie. His special effects were great, though.
Release Date: September 24th, 1986 (Chicago International Film Festival) Directed by: John McNaughton Written by: Richard Fire, John McNaughton Music by: Ken Hale, Steven A. Jones, Robert McNaughton Cast: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold
“How about those Bears?” – Store Clerk, “Fuck the Bears.” – Henry
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a brutal f’n movie. However, it’s also very slow and drawn out more than it needs to be. Now I get the old school suspense thriller style of building up tension but it’s not effective here and it makes 75 percent of this movie pretty damn boring.
I get that this movie has its fans but I’m really not one of them.
Now this film does have three distinct positives.
One, the acting is superb. Michael Rooker is more chilling than ever and since I’m a big fan of Rooker, I do like this film as far as his performance goes. He went to some really dark places here but what’s most interesting about it, is that he showed how capable of an actor he was even in his younger years.
Two, I like the cinematography and how this film was shot. The lighting was done well, the shot framing was better than one would anticipate and overall, the visual aesthetic enhanced the tone of the story, greatly.
Three, the score is unsettling but interesting in a way that also enhanced the film and its effect.
Sadly, the pacing just undoes a lot of the good.
Additionally, this is an extremely violent picture and while I don’t have a problem with gore, when there’s a real purpose for it, this film seems to use it just to push the bar and maybe that’s because the rest of the picture is so dull. The film does seem like it’s trying too hard to be shocking in those scenes.
I’m not sure if this was trying to pass itself off as high art but it’s definitely not high art. It’s not necessarily a proto-Silence of the Lambs, as much as it just feels like a gore riddled Manhunter.
But for fans of Rooker, it is worth a watch for sure.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs.
While I have seen both Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof multiple times, I never got to see the full-length version of Grindhouse until now.
When it came out in 2007, only one theater near me carried it and it wasn’t there very long, so I missed it. Also, the films were released separately, as expanded editions, when they hit store shelves. There wasn’t a full version of Grindhouse available after its theatrical run.
When I subscribed to Starz via my Amazon Fire Stick, I saw that the full version of the movie was available and thus, I could finally rectify this cinematic injustice. I’m really glad that I did because these films actually play much better in this format, as double-billed companion pieces to one another.
Plus, I finally got to see the trailers, as a part of this overall experience, even though I have seen them on YouTube multiple times since 2007.
Robert Rodriguez’s trailer for Machete was a highlight of the film and it was so good that it became its own motion picture and then expanded into a franchise. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer was interesting enough, as a trailer, but doesn’t seem like something that will work as a full-length feature. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Now Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving should be made into a full-length slasher film in the same vein as Machete. Roth has hinted at making it and I hope he eventually does.
This film also spawned a contest for fans to make fake trailers in the grindhouse style. This lead to the full-length feature Hobo With A Shotgun, which was a hell of a lot of fun. I need to re-watch it and review it in the near future.
Moving beyond the fake trailers, we have the two big films that make up the bulk of the Grindhouse experience. So let me get into each film and discuss them on their own.
Planet Terror (2007):
Release Date: April 6th, 2007 Directed by: Robert Rodriguez Written by: Robert Rodriguez Music by: Robert Rodriguez Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Savini, Michael Parks
Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes
“Now you’ve got a gal in your wrecked truck with a missing leg? A missing leg that’s now missing?” – Sheriff Hague
Planet Terror has always been my favorite of the two movies in Grindhouse. That still stands, as I love just about everything about it. It may even be my favorite Robert Rodriguez picture but it is a close race between this, From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.
The film is essentially a zombie outbreak movie but it is really gross, even for that genre. People’s faces start bubbling into puss and there is a lot of blood and other strange bodily fluids oozing out of people throughout the movie. There are also lots of severed testicles and a melting penis. It’s a gross movie but it is still well done and it doesn’t overtake the picture making it a mindless gore festival.
Planet Terror has a lot of depth and character development for a movie loaded with a ton of people. Everyone has an interesting story and it is cool seeing it all play out as these people eventually come together in an effort to escape the growing threat of a zombie apocalypse.
It also really fits the old school 1970s exploitation style of horror pictures that populated grindhouse theaters in big cities. The cinematography really captures the right vibe and kudos to the extra graininess and inconsistent look of different shots in the same sequences.
The practical effects also work well in making this film fit the grindhouse mold. Sometimes there is obvious CGI and it is a reminder that this isn’t a true 70s grindhouse picture but it isn’t a distraction and it serves its purpose well enough.
The cast is also phenomenal. I remember that when I first saw this, that I hoped it would open up doors for Freddy Rodriguez. He’s still not anywhere close to being a household name but his character of El Wray should reappear in some way, in some other Rodriguez picture. He’s a guy too cool to just be confined to this one movie.
This is also my favorite thing that Rose McGowan has ever done. Plus you get a very evil Josh Brolin, an enchanting Marley Shelton, a bad ass Michael Biehn, plus Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Bruce Willis, Lost‘s Naveen Andrews and Quentin Tarantino as his most despicable character to date. Jeff Fahey, who is always stellar, really kills it in this movie as J.T. the Texas B-B-Q king. Also, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has never looked better.
Planet Terror is unique, even for a film in a tired genre. It takes the zombie formula and ups the ante in every way possible. Rodriguez made a fine picture that should be mentioned alongside other great zombie classics.
Death Proof (2007):
Release Date: April 6th, 2007 Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Written by: Quentin Tarantino Music by: Rachel Levy, Jack Nitzsche, Mary Ramos Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, James Parks, Marley Shelton
“Because it was a fifty fifty shot on wheter you’d be going left or right. You see we’re both going left. You could have just as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case… It would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you’re going the other way, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start getting scared… immediately!” – Stuntman Mike
When I first saw Death Proof, it didn’t resonate with me. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but it just didn’t compare to the work that Quentin Tarantino did before it. I still feel this way but I have more of an appreciation for the film now. Also, seeing it in the Grindhouse format, which is more condensed, serves the film better.
The problem I initially had with the film, and some of Tarantino’s other pictures, is that it is way too talky. Sure, he writes great dialogue but sometimes it can run on for far too long. Death Proof in its longer running time falls victim to this. The condensed Grindhouse version, however, is better balanced.
Another problem with the film, is that many of the characters just aren’t likable. This is especially true for the first group of girls we meet. At least the second group felt more like friends and their conversations came across as more natural and authentic.
Kurt Russell initially knocks it out of the park as the killer driver, Stuntman Mike. However, as the film and his character evolves, he completely loses the cool bad ass shtick and becomes a giant whining weeny. His character transformation isn’t a bad thing, it is just how it is executed that makes it a problem.
The one thing that really makes this a cool picture, however, is the cars and the stunts. Tarantino selected some seriously bad ass automobiles that were homages to films that influenced him. The stunt work and action was amazing and the sequence of the first major accident was shot and executed stupendously.
The problem with the film, being that it is supposed to be a grindhouse throwback, is that it needed more balls-to-the-wall mayhem and less chit chat. The fact that this has a lot more dialogue than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but somehow can’t develop characters as well is pretty baffling. Tarantino would just rather focus on cool conversations on subjects that directly interest him than to have any sort of meaningful character development. You just don’t care about these people in the same way you care about those in Planet Terror.
Regardless of my criticisms, I do still like this movie. But to be honest, I still think it is the worst film in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Granted, that doesn’t mean much, as everything he’s done has been fairly great in some way.
In the end, this is still entertaining as hell and who doesn’t love muscle car chaos and kick ass chicks?
Additional directorial credits:
Robert Rodriguez – Machete trailer
Rob Zombie – Werewolf Women of the SS trailer
Edgar Wright – Don’t trailer
Eli Roth – Thanksgiving trailer
Additional acting credits from the fake trailer segments: Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon Zombie, Cheech Marin, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, Will Arnett, Nick Frost, Rafe Spall, Jason Issacs, Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz
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