Grindhouse is a 2007 American action-horror/exploitation double feature co-written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The double feature consists of two feature-length segments, Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof, and is bookended by fictional trailers for upcoming attractions, advertisements, and in-theater announcements. The film’s title derives from the U.S. film industry term “grindhouse”, which refers to (now mostly defunct) movie theaters specializing in B movies, often exploitation films, shown in a multiple-feature format. The film’s cast includes Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Naveen Andrews, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and stuntwoman Zoë Bell.
Rodriguez’s segment, Planet Terror, revolves around an outfit of rebels attempting to survive an onslaught of zombie-like creatures as they feud with a rogue military unit, while Tarantino’s segment, Death Proof, focuses on a misogynistic, psychopathic stunt man who targets young women, murdering them with his “death proof” stunt car. Each feature is preceded by faux trailers of exploitation films in other genres that were developed by other directors.
Death Proof is a 2007 American action thriller film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film centers on a psychopathic stunt man who stalks young women before murdering them in staged car accidents using his “death-proof” stunt car. The film pays homage to exploitation, muscle cars, and slasher film genres of the 1970s, and stars Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoë Bell as herself.
Death Proof was released theatrically in the United States as part of a double feature with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror under the collective title Grindhouse in order to replicate the experience of viewing exploitation film double features in a “grindhouse” theater. The films were released separately outside the United States and on DVD, with Death Proof going on sale in the United States on September 18, 2007.
Three friends -– Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), and radio DJ “Jungle” Julia Lucai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) -– drive down Colorado Street in Austin, Texas, on their way to celebrate Jungle Julia’s birthday. While bar-crawling, Julia reveals that she made a radio announcement earlier that morning, offering a free lap dance from Arlene in return for addressing her as “Butterfly,” buying her a drink, and reciting a segment of the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” They are unaware they are being stalked by an aging and sadistic Hollywood stunt double, “Stuntman” Mike (Kurt Russell). After trailing them to a bar, Mike follows the instructions from the radio announcement to get the lap-dance. Despite some initial trepidation, due to having seen Mike’s car earlier in the day, and asking if he has been following them, Mike puts her at ease (partly by saying she’s chicken), and Arlene agrees to the dance.
The three women prepare to depart, while Pam (Rose McGowan), another intoxicated female bar patron, has been impressed by Mike and accepts a ride home from him, considering him to be teetotaler and a safe ride. Mike takes Pam to his matte black 1971 Chevy Nova, which is a stunt car rigged with a safety cage inside. As Mike drives Pam off, it becomes clear he is trying to kill her, reminding her that his car is “death proof”, but only to the driver. Since the passenger side has no safety restraints at all, he kills her by driving recklessly and then slamming on the brakes, which smashes her skull into the dashboard. Mike speeds off, leaving behind photos he took earlier of the three other women, so as not to get caught with any evidence. He eventually comes on their car on an empty road, and drives at full speed directly into it. The force of the impact kills all four women. (There was an older lady driver in the car known as Lena Frank, who they met up with earlier at the bar.)
The local hospital finds Mike with only minor injuries, and asserts that since Mike was sober while the four women were intoxicated, he cannot be charged. This concerns Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, who is convinced Mike is guilty but cannot investigate without evidence. McGraw warns Mike that should this happen again, he’d better “make damn sure” it was not in Texas.
Fourteen months later, three young women, Abernathy Ross (Rosario Dawson), Kim Mathis (Tracie Thoms), and Lee Montgomery (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), are traveling through Lebanon, Tennessee. They stop briefly at a convenience store, where Mike is resting in his new ride, a 1969 Dodge Charger, and is intrigued by the women. The women, unaware of Mike, pick up their friend, stuntwoman Zoë Bell (who is playing herself), from the airport. Zoe informs them she wants to test-drive a white 1970 Dodge Challenger, exactly the same type of car from the 1971 film, Vanishing Point, which just happens to be nearby. After they get to the car’s location, Abernathy tries to convince the owner, Jasper, to let them “test drive” it alone. He refuses at first, but after Abernathy tells him Lee will stay behind (under the false pretense that they are in town to film a porno, of which Lee is the star), he agrees. In the process of all this, Zoe reveals to Abernathy and Kim that she has an ulterior motive in taking the car; she wants to play a game called “Ship’s Mast”, where she rides on the car’s hood using only leather belts to hold onto, while Kim drives it at high speeds.
The three enjoy the stunt, until Mike shows up and rear ends their car at high speed. The two cars engage in a harrowing high-speed chase for a distance before they both spin out on opposite sides of the roads, and Zoe is finally thrown from the car’s hood. Mike gets out to brag to the girls but Kim fires a gun, wounding him in the shoulder. As Mike gets back in the car and flees, Zoe shows that she is okay, and the three women agree to get revenge on Mike. Wounded, Mike is not able to outrun the women, and eventually his car is T-boned by the women in their car. The women pull him from the car and beat him savagely in the head until he falls unconscious. After a short credits sequence, Abernathy delivers a final axe kick to Mike’s head.
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First Published: Jan 13, 2012 – Last Updated: Apr 23, 2013