I want to tell you about two (three?) of the best movies I've seen in years. Grindhouse is the most fun I've had in the theater since... since... well, I can't remember that I've ever had as much fun watching a movie. Inland Empire wasn't exactly fun -- it was entrancing, mesmorizing, and scary, enough so that the hair on the back of my neck stands up just thinking about it.
Grindhouse is a double feature made up of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. And don't forget the juicy "previews" that separate the two, for movies like "machete" and "thanksgiving" that I wish would get made, because the previews were so good. So where do I start my praise? For one thing, both movies are strong enough to stand up to the other. I've read some critics who can't wait to tell us which one was better (they seem even split between the two), but these critics are full of shit. Rodriguez's zombie movie demonstrates why so many people love zombie movies, and Tarantino makes the audience break into applause at the end of his chase movie that's at least the equal of the best chase movie ever made, Spielberg's Duel.
Death Proof is so great because even if you disagree with me about Duel, Tarantino's film will remind you of your own favorite chase movie. And Planet Terror will remind you of your own favorite zombie movie. Or in my case, my favorite vampire movie -- Rodriguez's own From Dusk Till Dawn.
Finally, Grindhouse is great because of the actors. Some people say that Rose McGowan can't act -- I say bullshit. She acts plenty well enough in this picture, even if all she's asked to do is point her machine gun leg and kill zombies. She does that just fine. Besides, if what you really want is big stars, you've got Kurt Russell in Death Proof and Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu? Yeah, yeah, just go see Grindhouse and you'll figure it out.
When I was in high school, I made a film with a bear in it: a guy with a blue beadspread thrown over him and a sign labeled "bear" taped to his side. It worked, sort of, but not like David Lynch could have made it work. His latest movie, Inland Empire, has scenes with people wearing big rabbit-head costumes and watching a sitcom on TV, and by the end of the film they will make you shiver in your seat. You thought Blair Witch Project was spooky? Well, no one does spooky better than David Lynch, and this film is his spookiest yet.
I won't say that this movie is scary because you never see the monster. For the most part that's right, but Lynch isn't above resorting to a few classic tricks at just the right time, when you least suspect them, in order to make you shit your pants. So don't think you're safe because this film relies mainly on ambiance to freak you out -- a dark, snowy street in Poland, a film-set house with narrow hallways painted dark green and lit by a single bare bulb. It has all that shit, but that's not all.
What's it about? The subtitle is "a woman in trouble," and that's about as much as you know when the film ends. Laura Dern's character is in trouble, but you just don't know exactly how. Is it all psychological, as if she's suffering from schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder? Or is it supernatural, because she's haunted by ghosts? See, my hair's standing on end again. Gotta love David Lynch.
So what do Grindhouse and Inland Empire have in common? Here's one thing: go to the official Grindhouse website. The spooky ambience there doesn't fit that film well, but it almost perfectly captures the mood of Inland Empire. Go figure.