A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 372 – Grindhouse: Death Proof

Death Proof – March 7th, 2011

So, tonight when we put this in Andy looked at me and said “I’m going to warn you that you will hate this movie and it will make you angry.” And I figured he was right. After being treated to a few of my rants about other movies in our collection he should, by now, know what will anger me. And so I knew going into this movie that it would suck and I would be snarly by the end. And I was right and he was right. But oh, oh is it far worse than I really expected. It’s even got redeeming features, and yet they’re not redeeming enough. I don’t think anything is redeeming enough. I don’t know if anything could be.

So let’s talk about the conceit before we talk about the movie. The conceit of this particular film is that it’s got a very 70s vibe to it, with scratches and glitches and generally it’s supposed to seem like a horror film you’d watch at a drive-in. And it was released with the other Grindhouse movie, Terror Planet, apparently both in shortened forms. And lucky me, I get to watch the longer version. Having not seen it in the theater (and thank goodness, cause I think this would have been the first movie I’d ever walked out of if I had), I can’t say what was added for the DVD cut. But I have to wonder if it was the entire second half of the movie. Because, you see, all those glitches and scratches? All the things that make it look aged? Disappear halfway through. We follow one group of women, stalked by the villain, and then we follow a second group. And the first group gets the 70s treatment while the second group starts in black and white for a few minutes, then switches to color and then it’s goodbye to any attempt at making the movie look aged.

I could give Tarantino some credit here. I could make the argument that he’s trying to make a statement about how the first half of the movie is dated and exploitative and ugly and the second half of the movie is modern and empowered and attractive. And I could probably make that a convincing argument. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has already made that argument. But to be honest, I don’t really buy it myself. And I don’t buy it because there’s just plain too much time spent on the first half of the movie. It’s not just style homage, it’s worship. We spend an hour listening to a group of woman get drunk and talk about all the various sexual acts they’ve performed or will perform or might perform. It’s not parody. It’s just flat out verbal porn spoken by women in short shorts who were introduced to us by shots of their crotches. And after an hour spent with these women – none of whom are made out to be particularly sympathetic – we watch them all get brutally murdered by Stuntman Mike, our villain. After one of them gives him a lap dance, of course.

There’s no getting around the scene where he kills the women. He’s got this matte black car that he claims is death proof. He’s a stunt man and he’s made his car tough enough to withstand a lot of damage. First he traps a young woman in the passenger side and slams her around. Then he hunts down the car the other women are in and smashes into it, killing them all. The camera pauses and shows each gruesome death in detail. Limbs go flying, blood spatters, faces are destroyed by tires. It’s hideous and brutal and it’s given a painful amount of camera time.

The second half of the movie follows a different group of women. This time they’re not out to get boozed up or laid. They’re just a group of four women who work on movies together. Abby does hair and makeup, Lee’s an actress, Kim and Zoe are stuntwomen. After a somewhat labored plot to get Abby, Kim and Zoe into a white Dodge Challenger (leaving Lee behind, which I will get to), they encounter Stuntman Mike in his black deathmobile and off they go. Mike menaces them, almost kills them, and then the tables get turned because these are professionals. Kim’s a stunt driver and she carries a gun (a rather literal example of Chekhov’s Gun, to be certain), so Mike’s tricks don’t work and they hunt him down and beat the crap out of him. And meanwhile, their fairly innocent friend, Lee, is hanging out with the owner of the Challenger. And Abby implied to him that Lee was a porn star. Cute, ladies. Really cute. Totally makes me like the ‘heroines’ of the movie to know that they’d leave their friend with a strange man and give him the impression that she was there to perform sexual favors for him. It undermines a lot of the ‘empowerment’ aspect of the second half of the movie. Not that it wasn’t already undermined by everything else.

This is a profoundly hateful movie. This is a movie for people who like to ogle women and watch them get hurt and I hate it. It was uncomfortable to watch and I feel a little ill that we own it. The fact that three of the women in the movie go on to exact vengeance on the sick fucker who hunted them does not excuse the absolutely pornographic scenes of women being dismembered when he rams his car into theirs. I get the point. I get the intent. I get why Kurt Russell’s character is so very horrific. It’s to make you feel that much more invested when the tables are turned on him. It’s so you think everything that happens to him afterward is more than deserved. I get that. It’s still hateful. It’s not just the body count, or that five out of the six bodies are women. It’s how the movie lingers on those first five as they’re torn apart. It’s how those women are set forth as the bad girls. The ones who get smashed and flirt with strange guys and give lap dances. It’s how the first five are basically just bodies there for consumption. It’s how those bodies are the entire point of their presence in the movie. It’s that this movie is a sloppy and nasty piece of work masquerading as clever pop-culture homage and I find that utterly vile.

March 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Grindhouse: Death Proof

March 7, 2011

Grindhouse: Deathproof

Tonight is a hard one. Part of the premise of our project here is that we’re going to watch every single movie we own, and this is probably the movie I’ve been looking forward to least. Before putting this movie in tonight I warned Amanda that it was unremittingly and irredeemably awful. I liked the concept of Grindhouse. That it was a strange kind of homage to the cheap movies of the seventies. I liked the scored up looking film, missing reels, the bad editing and out of sync sound. The idea that these movies were made to look like they were from the seventies but feature cell phones, SUVs and other modern day anachronisms tickles me. So why did Tarantino have to make such an awful movie?

This film is two movies, really. The first half is a horror slasher movie. Not a genre I’m interested in at all. We spend the first excruciating hour of the movie following an unappealing group of people as they slowly get shitfaced drunk. There’s a trio of girls (a local DJ and her friends.) There’s the ill-defined short haired girl who shows up eventually to sell weed to the trio. There’s the lonely girl who has been left at a bar in the rain and has no ride home. There are a couple of horrible slimy bastards who want to get the girls drunk so they can sleaze their way to a weekend getaway at a lake house. There’s an annoying bartender who forces them to do shots. (Our director ladies and gentlemen.) After all this time getting to know these characters as they carouse together – with plenty of trademark Tarantino pop culture inspired dialog – every one of the girls is brutally murdered by our villain. He’s a stuntman, see, with a car which he claims is “deathproof” because it is designed to be crashed. So he crashes it.

It’s a scene of horrifying brutality which defines the entire movie for me. The first time I watched the film I turned it off at that point – about two thirds of the way through – because I couldn’t stand to watch it any more. It’s supposed to establish how completely and unbelievably evil Stunt Man Mike is so that for the second portion of the movie – the girl power revenge portion – we can get a sense of justice. But what it does for me is establish how evil the whole movie is.

The sad part is that the latter half of the movie with its kick-ass girls and the fantastic performance by stunt woman Zoe Bell as a stunt woman named Zoe is actually pretty fun to watch. Once it becomes a movie about women hunting down a crazed maniac who tried to kill them I actually enjoy the film. Too bad that by then I’ve had to sit through so much nastiness and unpleasantness that it isn’t quite enough to redeem the film.

There are little glimmers of genus in this movie which make it so much more disappointing than if it had simply been consistently bad throughout. Kurt Russell as Mike delivers a powerful and disturbing performance. His character is probably one of the most frighteningly and apologetically evil beasts ever committed to film. Zoe Bell is charming and funny and impossible not to love. The whole strange grindhouse idea is quirky and fun.

In the end though I actively hate this movie. Amanda is right – it’s a movie that is intended to appeal to people who want awful things to happen to women. I much prefer Tarantino’s next movie – which is a movie intended to appeal to people who want awful things to happen to Nazis.

March 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment