Easter Sunday 2007 found me in the theater for a much anticipated experience: the Grindhouse double feature. In the showing I attended, Planet Terror was first on the bill. Planet Terror was awesome. I loved the fake grain, the angry chords of the soundtrack, the bisexual subplot, the missing reel, the babysitters, seeing Fergie dead on a gurney, everything. Maybe I was just tired of sitting in the theater after all of that excitement, and I realize viewers are polarized on this one, but Death Proof bored the curl out of my hair.
I’m not even a fan of Rodriguez’s movies in general, but I have watched Planet Terror at least twenty times on DVD. Tarantino’s movies are a reason to live, but the only part of Death Proof I’ve been able to watch since that day in the theater is the big car wreck in the middle. Granted, it was one of the best horror movie death scenes of all time. Especially seeing smug Jungle Julia get hers on behalf of everyone who has ever been a victim of a mean girl.
Anyway, even though a lot of love and care obviously went into the car wreck scene, it doesn’t balance out the rest of the movie. If all he wanted was to make me feel anxious for that car wreck to happen, then, problem solved, but I get the idea I was supposed to be dazzled by the scintillating dialogue written by a man trying to get inside a bunch of women’s heads. Worst of all is the idea that some people see Death Proof as a feminist piece because the girls at the end triumph over Stuntman Mike, but everyone forgets that they traded their friend to a creep so they could test drive his car.
The hell of it is, I am such a huge Tarantino fan that I had been more excited about him doing a horror movie than I had been about anything he was involved in since I ran out to see Jackie Brown on Christmas Day 1997. Sometimes I still wake up in the morning and think, “all right! Tarantino is making a horror movie!” And then I wake up completely and remember that it happened years ago and it was 114 minutes of a bunch of totally unlikeable hosebeasts talking about stupid crap while the camera did closeups of their feet and legs.
And yes, I understand that Death Proof was an homage to cheap movies. All of Tarantino’s movies are celebrations of different genres of cheap movies. But the reason to watch cheap crappy movies is to see how the writer fills the time between the sparse plot points with hot, buttery what-the-fuck. If you’re not actually making a bad movie, you could show competency by getting the pacing right and making the what-the-fuck entertaining. Watching Death Proof was like riding between the plot points in a Dodge Challenger that had been equipped with a governor.
Also, and this probably sounds like the old joke about the bad food in such small portions, but I was disappointed that more people didn’t go out to see the double feature, because the poor turnout guarantees that no one else will try it again and do it better.