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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Guilty Pleasure: Week Five

After an entire month, at long last we bring you the final edition of the Thursday Guilty Pleasure, a joint venture between the Vault and Missy Yearian's Chickapin Parish! What can we say, it takes us a long to work up the courage to make these confessions, so bear with us...

In this swan song installment, I've got a particularly rare (and some might say forgettable) early '80s bit of cinematic corn, while Missy turns her attention to a film which I happen to like a great deal, even if i recognize that many people don't have much patience for it. So let's jump right in, shall we?

Saturday the 14th (1981)

Much like TerrorVision last time, this is one that goes back to the early HBO days for me. Saturday the 14th--a bizarre horror spoof that some misguided Hollywood exec somewhere once thought was a clever idea--was in constant rotation on the fledgling cable network. And at the time, I just thought it was the funniest thing imaginable.

Mind you, I had never even heard of Friday the 13th at the time, let alone seen it. Which is probably for the best, since this movie has nothing to do with it whatsoever--despite the fact that its title was intended as a timely parody of the aforementioned slasher classic. Looking back, one even has to wonder why the film was even called that, but at the time I didn't even bat an eye. Of course, at the time, The Electric Company was also my favorite TV show. But that's neither here nor there.

The very talented Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss and Jeffrey Tambor are all in this clunker, which leads me to think that a lot of people must've once thought that this movie was going to be a really big deal. Well, as we now know, those people were dead wrong. Saturday the 14th is now naught but a footnote in the history of horror comedy. But it'll always have a place in my heart, even if I can't quite understand what I ever found so funny about it...

...And now, Missy Yearian to discuss the merits of Tarantino's grossly misunderstood contribution to Grindhouse...

Death Proof (2007)

There are people in the world who could be identified by their status as Quentin Tarantino fans—people so rabid in their affection for the director that they’ll get borderline violent in their defense of his films. Me? I like him. I like him a lot. But he sure is an arrogant prick. Still, even these folks seemed to turn their noses up at his Grindhouse feature Death Proof.

Many people cite Planet Terror as being the better of the two halves of the Grindhouse experience. And I suppose I can see this perspective. But where Planet Terror is a loving homage to Grindhouse films, Death Proof actually is a Grindhouse film. And for my money, I would much rather watch an actual Grindhouse film than watch a movie that simply loves them.

In the past, I have heard people complain like crazy about the dialogue in this film. They say it’s vapid and shallow and completely irritating. And I suppose it could be, but what Grindhouse movie have you seen that doesn’t have throwaway dialogue that could have easily been cut? This is Tarantino writing for people we don’t necessarily like. This is him creating characters with much less depth than we’ve grown accustomed to. This is him writing about women whose real power comes in the form of violence.

And let’s talk about that violence, shall we? The first car accident in the movie is, for my money, worth the ticket price alone. It’s a completely non-CGI splatter fest, and I found myself utterly gleeful while watching it. Come on y’all, when that tire runs over Arlene’s face, it might just be one of those most shining moments in any one of Tarantino’s films. It’s as memorable as two American soldiers pumping bullets into Hitler’s face, as special as seeing Bridget Fonda bored to tears while being humped by Robert DeNiro. It’s a prime Tarantino moment.

But this isn’t the only quality moment in the film. The last twenty-ish minutes of the movie are absolutely joy-inducing. For once that tired old line “a white knuckle thrill ride for the ages” actually fits. The chase scene with Zoe Bell being Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell being… well, I am guessing Kurt Russell (you would too if you’d scene Big Trouble in Little China as much as I have) had me howling with laughter.

And if that weren’t enough, you have the cast, which I am sure some of you are going to be surprised that I love. To begin, you have Vanessa Ferlito looking hotter than she ever has and giving a lap dance that makes me wish I hadn’t levied all those arguments against strip clubs. And then you have Rosario Dawson who, no matter how hard she might try, can never seem to make me look away.

But the real stars of the film are Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell. Yes, some people seem irritated by that fact that Tarantino is so damned infatuated with Zoe Bell, but to that I say, “Aren’t you?” Watching Bell do her thing might be the best time I have ever had in the theater.

And Kurt Russell is by turns creepy, ugly, handsome, and hilarious. Even if I didn’t love the rest of the film, I would find it worthwhile just for the moment when he pours alcohol onto his gunshot wound and simply cries, “Why? Why? Why?” Let’s face it, friends, no matter what happens, we’ll always love a little Kurt Russell.

Okay, so there are stretches of boring in there. Of course there are. When is the last time you saw an actual Grindhouse movie? Because I am sure I have never seen one that couldn’t have been trimmed drastically. I applaud Tarantino for making a movie he loves—even if his fans didn’t follow in line. I did, however, and I can’t help but watch Death Proof at least twice a year.


gord said...

Thank god someone else gets the intentional awfulness of Death Proof. Sure Planet Terror is more in your face fun, but DP was a more loving homage.

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

I seriously don't understand the bad rap around Death Proof. I abso-fucking-lutely LOVED IT. Love every bit of it (except the part with Michael Parks, I always fast forward). I suppose I've just grown used to the self-absorbing dialogue because I didn't mind it all that much in this film.

B-Sol said...

I agree! I enjoy it a lot better than Planet Terror, actually.

carol said...

i haven't watched Saturday the 14th since i was a kid. but i remember loving it. as an adult, i think richard benjamin is a great choice for the guy who won't move out of the haunted/possessed/monster-infested/cursed house.

Robert A. Geise said...

Saturday the 14th is quite difficult to watch these days, except for some really hilarious moments.

After the mother is bitten, the family sits down to dinner and offers her steak with garlic. She answers, "No, God, GET IT AWAY!" and then with motherly sweetness, "Thank you very much."

Then there's the best line in the film: "Selling the house now would be like closing the barn door after the horses have eaten your children."

I, also, LOVE Death Proof. My family and I roared when "THE END" came up.

B-Sol said...

I haven't even TRIED to watch Saturday the 14th in a VERY long time...might be an experiment worth trying. Or maybe not...?

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