“Grindhouse” 15 Years Later: An Ambitious Experiment That Deserved Better

Creators are often an amalgamation of their inspirations whether intentionally or not.  And while they’re more known for other genres, both Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez wear their inspirations on their sleeve.  Growing up watching exploitation action/horror/sci-fi films, you can certainly see the same grittiness blended with tongue-in-cheek humor present in many of their critically acclaimed films.

So while it seemingly came out of nowhere, it was no surprise when the two of them announced they were doing a double feature aptly titled Grindhouse in 2007.  Releasing a 3+ hour feature that contained two movies within, as well as fake trailers was ambitious to say the least.

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It also featured a brief, but creepy performance by Quentin Tarantino, much like From Dusk Till Dawn.

And while it unfortunately didn’t pay off at the time, it was a fascinating cinematic experiment that should be celebrated.  So on its 15th anniversary, we thought we’d take a look back at Grindhouse and discuss why it deserved better.

Worthy Experiment
In an industry that’s filled with remakes, reboots, sequels, requels, and every other buzzword, it’s genuinely refreshing when someone tries something different.  Grindhouse was a unique way to pay tribute to “grindhouse” exploitation movies of decades past, but without having to piggyback on an existing franchise.  Both movies were original stories that captured the vibe of older movies, while still existing as their own unique idea.

Death Proof served as an admittedly dialogue heavy but fun tribune to action movies.  It incorporated a lot of lore around the stunt industry and while it was generally regarded as the less interesting movie, it’s by no means a bad one.  Even Tarantino fans will often cite it as their least favorite.  But Kurt Russell gives an amazing performance and if you don’t expect The Fast and the Furious, it doesn’t disappoint.

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Honestly, the chase at the end is amazing for the simple fact that it’s all being done practically.

Planet Terror to this day remains a better zombie story that the entirety of Walking Dead, and for good reason.  It’s gory, over the top, features memorable characters, and it’s just ridiculous and self-aware enough that you embrace its more absurd moments.  It also contains a brief but dedicated performance from Bruce Willis.  And given recent headlines, it’s a joy to revisit some of his best movie roles.

Even the fake trailers proved iconic enough that two of them actually wound up becoming feature films.  Who ever would have thought back in 2007 that Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun would actually get made.  And while “Don’t” was pretty much just a parody, slasher fans are still eager to get that Thanksgiving themed horror movie that Eli Roth fake promised.

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Still waiting for Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the S.S.

Right Place, Wrong Time?
Despite all the passion, creativity, and love of genre that went into Grindhouse, it sadly flopped at the box office.  Opening at 4th (behind several movies in their 2nd week), it didn’t even make its production budget back during its entire theatrical run.

Some speculated that the three hour runtime was a bit much for casual moviegoers.  Those who did see it, seemed to really enjoy it, as did many critics, who applauded the film’s experimental nature.

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Some speculated the Planet Terror would have done well released on its own. But without the double feature, that’s sort of the whole point of Grindhouse.

Given its lack of success, the studio decided to release the movies separately on home video, and the double feature with the fake trailers intact wouldn’t be released until several years later.  But perhaps the world just wasn’t ready for that back in 2007.

The world of entertainment and fandom is far different now than it was 15 years ago.  Had something like this been released to streaming today, it probably would have been insanely popular and audiences would have demanded more “grindhouse” double features.  And given the availability and affordability of digital cameras, it’s a lot easier for those campy fake trailers to be actual movies.

Series like The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs have facilitated a resurged interest from this era of movies.

Plus, we’re much more obsessed with nostalgia now than ever before (hence all the reboots, remakes, and requels), so a fun callback to a vintage era like this would probably be very welcome to a modern audience.  And it would assuage those fans who are upset by the lack of originality, because again, Grindhouse paid tribute to the genre rather than outright adapt an existing movie or series.

Despite its box office failure, both Tarantino and Rodriguez did discuss the idea of doing more double feature films like this.  Unfortunately that never came to fruition, and at this point, the two of them are busy with other projects.   But it would have been cool to see.

Ultimately, the takeaway from Grindhouse was that originality, creativity, and experimenting doesn’t work, and doing more of the same does.  And that’s a very sad takeaway for the state of modern movies.  But still, we’ll always have Death Proof, Planet Terror, as well as Hobo with a Shotgun and two Machete movies!

What do you think of Planet Terror and Death Proof?  Which fake trailer was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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