I want to point out that I did not see Grindhouse in the theater; I watched Planet Terror and Death Proof as two separate movies on DVD. Therefore, I did not get the full “grindhouse” experience as the directors and producers sought to offer in the theater.
That being said, I watched Planet Terror first and absolutely had a blast with it! Robert Rodriguez directs an ensemble cast featuring Freddy Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin, and Bruce Willis in a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek zombie movie. This film was pure, over-the-top action, obviously fake blood and guts galore, and dialogue demanding a straight face. In other words, Robert Rodriguez knew exactly what sort of “grindhouse” movie he wanted to make and had fun making it. Planet Terror in no way took itself seriously, and that’s what made it so enjoyable. I won’t even bother to explain the premise other than to say a military weapon went wrong resulting in a zombie epidemic. The movie didn’t bother to explain this too thoroughly, so why should I? In the end, it didn’t matter at all. Each actor played to their “type” perfectly, and this was just a very fun, hyper-stylistic movie.
Death Proof, on the other hand, represents everything that drives me nuts about today’s Quentin Tarantino (no pun intended). Look, Pulp Fiction was unlike anything I’d ever seen and will forever be one of my favorites. But Tarantino, the director of Death Proof, has lost the ability to reign himself in. He says he wanted to make a movie with the ultimate car chase scene. Fine. Mission accomplished. The other hour and a half is unwatchable, though. Tarantino gives us an all female cast, scantily clad, spouting horrific dialogue delivered horrifically, which I’m guessing Tarantino found “cool.” They talk mostly about sex, and as I’m watching it I’m envisioning Tarantino slobbering off-camera over these women he has amassed for his own personal fantasy. The only saving grace of Death Proof is Rosario Dawson, who lights up the screen, and Kurt Russell, who gives a great performance for half the movie, then a terrible performance for the other half. Tarantino took himself too seriously with this genre, and thus had the exact opposite effect Planet Terror achieved. Oh, by the way, Death Proof is about a deranged former stuntman hunting down women and committing vehicular homicide in one case, and attempting to in another.
My recommendation is to watch Planet Terror and skip Death Proof. If you must watch Death Proof, I suggest only watching the last half-hour, the incredible car chase; the rest of it is painfully inept.