So where do I even begin with Quentin Tarantino’s, Death Proof? This 2007 production was completely different from what I was expecting, towards the end I began to wonder whether I was still watching the same film. Death Proof features a psychotic stunt man who deliberately kills a group of young women in a horrific and gruesome car accident; this is his main agenda really, “Stunt Man Mike” drives around in his indestructible ‘death proof’ car that is used to terrorise and mutilate young women.
Ok so, it’s really not to bad, as there is only one or two gruesome scenes throughout the entire film, in fact I was actually expecting a massacre with blood and amputated limbs flying left right and centre, after all it is a Quentin Tarantino Film! The ending featured a rather unexpected twist, as stunt man Mike finds himself in a vicious car chase with three young women who refuse to be victimized; Death Proof makes a rapid transition from an American slasher to an action, thriller. There was one stage where I was wondering whether I accidentally pressed the wrong button on the remote control, I soon realised I was still watching the same film!
Death Proof, DVD Cover
So why am I even talking about Death Proof in the first place? Well I was fascinated with the skull that was imprinted onto the front of Mike’s ‘Death Proof’ Car. The skull is quite a striking image, especially on top of the car and the symbol continually reappears throughout the majority of the film. I have actually wondered how the skull relates to the storyline or the narrative, in fact the film was rather disjointed and the dialogue was rather confusing, it was rather difficult to determine what was actually going on.
It was quite difficult to determine the most important aspects of the film as the three protagonists at the very start changed to three completely different characters towards the end of the film. At least the narrative wasn’t boring or predictable and the dialogue was rather entertaining to watch! The random conversations between the different characters also adds a humorous twist to the film, Kurt Russell also plays an excellent role as Stunt Man Mike, his psychotic and irrational behaviour is rather comical.
Car Crash in Death Proof
I have noticed that Tarantino’s films feature a stylised effect, especially the violence that isn’t really shocking or horrifying at all! The violence is exaggerated to the extent where the blood splatters and the amputated limbs become humorous and entertaining! The violence is extremely unrealistic, it’s almost cartoonish, although I do believe that these particular effects add a unique style to Tarantino’s films. I must admit Death Proof features the most violent car accident I have ever seen, you don’t just see two cars colliding into one another, you actually see arms, legs, torso’s cut in half with blood splattering in every direction.
The violence in Death Proof was very brief, there was only one particular scene that was gory, other than that the film was quite tame for a Tarantino film. Overall, I do find the skull on Mike’s ‘death proof’ car intriguing, I personally believe that the skull signifies danger as the symbol only reappears when something violent is about to occur. I decided to search for Death Proof through the internet and I have realised that the skull has been used for car stickers, t-shirt designs, jewellery, key rings, even coffee mugs; the symbol has become a form of visual merchandising!
Kurt Russell and Rose McGowan
Ok so I didn’t really understand the concept behind Death Proof until I decided to research ‘Grindhouse Cinema’, that was introduced in the 1970’s. According to Sarah Wharton in American Independent Cinema, the Grindhouse genre does feature exploitative films that significantly emphasise sex, gore and violence. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’ and Robert Rodriquez’s ‘Planet Terror’ are heavily inspired by the Grindhouse genre; the special effects feature quite an old, deteriorated appearance and the colours are over saturated, it’s as if you have been brought back in time to watch a 1970’s slasher film.
Both films feature disjointed lines that distorts the quality and the appearance, just imagine you’re watching a film at the cinema and there’s a roll of film that is about to explode or set on fire, now just imagine the quality of the film you are watching, it’s as if the film is about to stop at any second. This is the kind of anticipation I experience when I begin to watch Death Proof or Planet Terror, the special effects do add a very distinctive and unique style. So Tarantino and Rodriquez have produced a ‘double feature’ named Grindhouse that includes Death Proof and Planet Terror, as well as other films such as Machete, Machete Kills and Hobo with a Shotgun.
Grindhouse Poster for Death Proof and Planet Terror
So Planet Terror features a hardcore go-go dancer who is attacked by a flesh-eating zombie, Cherry Darling is immediately rushed into hospital, where her leg is amputated and replaced with a machine gun. Both Cherry and her ex – boyfriend, Wray begin to brutally kill an army of zombies that begin to take over the world along with the other survivors including a nurse, a sheriff and a crazy chef from a deserted steakhouse.
I have noticed that some of the characters in Planet Terror do make an appearance in Death Proof, some of the scenes are quite familiar and it is interesting to observe the parallel between these two particular films. Tarantino and Rodriquez’s version of Grindhouse provides a unique perspective of the genre and the story lines also features a level of humour, parody and satire that is throughly entertaining to watch.
Planet Terror by Robert Rodriquez
While Planet Terror features blood, gore and violence in every minute of the film, Death Proof focuses on the dialogue, which becomes a significant part of the narrative. According to Jay McRoy Tarantino and Rodriquez have used Grindhouse within a contemporary context, the sex, the violence, even the visual effects appear rather similar to a 1970’s B-Grade Horror Movie or an exploitative film with no budget. Ironically these two influential directors have used the visual effects in order to replicate certain elements from B-Grade, exploitative films, both Death Proof and Planet Terror feature a surreal, unconventional style that I haven’t really seen before.
Exploitative films such as Salo or I Spit on your Grave feature highly graphic depictions of sexual violence, in comparison Death Proof and Planet Terror feature a level of humour, irony as well as impressive special effects that combine contemporary Hollywood Cinema with the American Grindhouse genre. Overall Death Proof can be rather confusing and disjointed within certain aspects of the film, although it is interesting to see Tarantino’s interpretations of American Grindhouse and the B-Grade exploitation genre from the 1970’s.
If you are looking for something different to watch, then I would definitely recommend Rodriquez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof, If you are patient, the dialogue will suddenly transform into a brutal, violent car chase!
Mcroy, Jay, in Horror Film: Creating and Marketing Fear (ed) Steffen Hantke, (USA: University of Mississippi Press,2010) http://books.google.com.au/books?id=tYiGERS4fKoC&pg=PA226&dq=grind
Wharton, Sarah, “Welcome to the Neo Grindhouse: Sex, Violence and the Indie Film” in American Independent Cinema,
Indie, Indewood and Beyond (eds) Geoff King, Claire Molloy and Yannis Tzioumakis (Oxon: Routledge, 2013)
Cline, John and Weiner. G . Robert (eds), From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow in Transgressive in Cinema’s 21st Century
(Scarecrow Press, 2010) http://books.google.com.au/books?id=VKhqh3HFH8AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=grindhouse&hl=en&sa=X&ei=