Thanks to a lousy US box office reception, Grindhouse – the adored bastard sprog double-feature of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez – was hacked in two when it finally came here. Film nerds agog at the prospect of a three-hour neo-exploitationfest had to cough for Planet Terror and Death Proof separately, and miss out entirely on the geekalicious treat of the fake trailers that accompanied them. O cruel fate/boringly cautious distributors.
But at last the full enchilada is being screened in London as the directors intended. Its English premiere was on Saturday at the Tarantino-tastic Prince Charles Cinema. Edgar 'Shaun of the Dead' Wright, director of one of the faux promos that nestle between the two features (the hysterical Don't), introduced it, having helped to make it happen. He told of the grand "tits and ass and sex and violence" tradition of grindhouse movies – the 'grind' part referring to the way the cheap'n'nasty films were "ground out like mincemeat", as well as ground through the projectors, getting ever skankier as they went.
This insalubrious tradition is what Grindhouse celebrates, and man, it's a glorious heap of crap. Seeing the films together with the trailers makes all the difference – it's meant as an immersive experience, a show that's more than the sum of its parts. The prints are lovingly, authentically ruined, complete with missing reels, hitches and glitches galore. The two stories – bunch of vigilantes tackle chemical-spawned zombies, psychotic serial killer chases two groups of girls – are executed in strikingly different ways but with the same exuberance, and the same painstaking cackhandedness. Both are unspeakably horrid, obviously, yet there's a ton of heart in them (not an exploding gooey heart, though. Well, maybe). Planet Terror even has the odd genuinely touching moment.
They're beautifully bad, but there's no lofty po-mo archness about them – what's being communicated, straight, is an infectious delight. It's completely inclusive, free of the nerd-elitism you might expect. The whole show is about the joy of cinema, and so even when there are infected pustules popping and severed limbs flying every which way, what you feel is a great… warmth. The PCC rang to the happy sound of arses being laughed off all the way through. If you've got a strong stomach, it might remind you why you love film.
By Sarah Bee