24 April 2007


I grew up in the Nazarene Church, a fairly strict protestant denomination that absolutely forbid such sinful things as rock music and going to the movies. When other kids were beside themselves with joy over seeing The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen, I was reading the novelization (at age five) and collecting all of the Topps collector cards. At the age of nine, I had been to the movies exactly twice (to the best of my recollection): In 1980 mom took us kids to see Popeye, and in 1981 we saw The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

All that changed in 1984. While my dad was sorting his life out (one of many times,) Mom threw in the towel and took me and and my sister to the movies. The movie that kicked off our mad romp into "sin" was the hellacious Star Trek: The Search for Spock. We found a cheap-o "dollar" theatre in Longview or Tyler, Texas. Maybe it was Shreveport, Louisiana. We moved around so much, sometimes it all blurs together.

Anyway, we saw a lot of crap movies for cheap. Once, Mom took us the the movies on a school night, thus inaugurating my all-time favorite dinner: nachos and popcorn.

When I first caught wind of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino joint project Grindhouse, it was a no-brainer. I can't say that I had the same experience that the filmmakers had growing up. I wish I had! So I don't speak fluent "exploitation" the way they do, but I love a good "popcorn" flick. With Grindhouse, we've got two.

Pamela and I trundled down to The Vista in Los Feliz, a gorgeous one-screener decked out like an Egyptian tomb. The seats were damn uncomfortable, but the popcorn had real butter!

PLANET TERROR is Rodriguez's film, a more-or-less zombie flick with the sort of non-stop cartoony violence he does best. The make-up effects are absolutely disgusting. We're talking pustules and tumors and blood -- lots and lots of blood. Rodriguez carries the "grindhouse" affectation further than Tarantino, playing with scratched film, jump-cuts, missing reels and even a frame burnout as narrative tools. What he does is take the cliches of crap-cinema, and churn out a great flick couched in a crap cinematic dialect.

DEATH PROOF is Tarantino's offering. He doesn't use the "grindhouse" affectation as much as Rodriguez, but when he does it's pretty damn funny. The best thing about this flick is Zoe Bell, hands down. She's an incredible stunt performer and, as it turns out, one hell of an actress. Tarantino kicks off the big car chase with Zoe Bell clinging to the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, blasting full speed down a country highway. No CGI, just old fashioned car stunts.

(I haven't even commented on the faux trailers that accompany the two features. Hrm. Probably best not to. Except for this one thing: Eli Roth is one sick, twisted guy.)

I felt like a little kid again, clutching my popcorn and finding myself engrossed in the giant screen before me. And you know what? That's the best way to go to the movies.

UPDATE: My dad did try to compensate for the rigors of Nazarene life. He would, on occasion, rent a projector and screen "Christian" movies for the congregation (or just the youth group, depending on the selection). I recall seeing an "End Times" grindhouse flick at the tender age of four or five, the 1972 classic A Thief in the Night.

We lived next to railroad tracks back then, and every time a train would whistle it's way past in the dead of night, I'd wake up with cold sweats, worried that Gabriel had blown his horn and called my family home. I've since become a preterist, so I don't sweat the rapture.

So I guess I did have a grindhouse experience (of sorts) as a kid. Personally, I think I would've better enjoyed Death Race 2000 or Shaft.


rosborn said...

I'm a Nazarene pastor in Cincinnati and you'll be interested to know the church has softened it's stance on movies a bit. I am a bit biased but it's a great church. Our main thing is living like Christ (aka holiness)

The said...

That's ironic, since I'm a Peteist. Ha. Christian humor from the Atheist. :D

But I agree--I wish all movies made me grip my popcorn bag and push me to the edge of my seat. Movies don't really do that any more. I may still give Grindhouse a try. We'll see.

Maybe I'll go see that new Spider-Man movie again...

...or not.