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For a long time I’ve boasted that if you want to see what’s happening in the neo-grindhouse movement, the best thing you can do is go look for the independent filmmakers and see what they’re up to. Because whether it’s “The Hood Has Eyez,” or “Foxxy Madonna vs. The Black Death,” the odds are it’s better than the entirety of “Grindhouse.” Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed “Grindhouse,” I did. I thought it had a lot of creativity to it but felt more like a throwback than an attempt to mimic the actual grindhouse motif. Because even the most ardent grindhouse fans will tell you that the best grindhouse films have a lot going for them: One is that they’re usually comprised of zero budgets, and two, they’re often tedious. “Thriller: A Cruel Picture” is one of my favorite cult films of all time, but mid-way it lags with gratuitous sex scenes with Christina Lindberg, and her ultimate plot for revenge.
“Grindhouse” has only caught on because there’s a need for this sort of film in the market, not because it was a particularly good movie. I mean the normal grindhouse film does not comprise big names, nor are they able to afford them. There are no ensemble casts in a grindhouse flick Rob Zombie, and the only real highlight you can actually afford to remember from the original film is that the artificial trailers were all fairly entertaining bordering on excellence. Even Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” hearkened back to some of the best and worst slasher films ever made, with an ode to “Cutting Class” among the montage he assaults the audience with. And who can forget the buzz behind the prologue trailer “Machete”? With the trailers they had a firm idea of what they were lampooning in the grindhouse sub-genre.
“Don’t!” was clearly britsploitation. “Thanksgiving” was obviously a nod to the classic slasher films, “Werewolf Women of the SS” was so clearly nazisploitation and then we entered in to the confusion that was “Grindhouse.” I think if Tarantino and Rodriguez had an idea of what sub-sub genre they were intent on spoofing, the films would have done so much better in theaters. At least they would have inspired much more confidence in the Weinsteins because to this day I’m not sure who the movie is appealing to. I’m not even sure what genres “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof” fit in to. They’re such confusing and muddled bits and pieces of various sub-genres, and sub-sub genres, and ideas that they can barely form a cogent genre piece. “Planet Terror” was two parts Mexploitation and one part zombie exploitation (?), and “Death Proof” was one part exploitation, and two parts hot rod film. That’s about as best as I can surmise their purpose in the film market. But then there came along the artificial trailers, one of which was “Hobo with a Shotgun,” and wouldn’t you know it?
The director behind it, Jason Eisener, just did it better than they could have ever hoped to. It had a small budget. It had no names. It was ridiculous. And surely enough seemed so over the top. And it managed to catch enough clout to where fans were clawing for an actual film that didn’t wreak of the excesses of vanity and self-congratulatory sentiment that “Grindhouse” did. “Hobo with a Shotgun” is that film that has caught on with the film world primarily because it’s not only a much welcomed vehicle for the man Rutger Hauer, but is also something of a hardcore true grindhouse throwback that embraces the idiocy and has a clear idea of what it wants to do with itself. I have yet to see it, but you can be your butt I’m readying it for a slot on my Top 10 of 2011. Just in case.
Independent film directors are just doing it better than the pros are and that’s a fact if you can look hard enough and surpass the bland offerings of your usual home video catalogues. “Nude Nuns with Big Guns” was a surreal bit of nunsploitation that featured a lesbian nun with a penchant for nudity who sought back at the drug dealers who ruined her life. There was also “Nun of That,” yet another nunsploitation gem with a musical number from Jesus Christ, and of course “Black Dynamite.” The miniscule budgeted blaxploitation film is the one that deserved a slot alongside the other double feature as it’s hilarious, ridiculous, over the top, and garners some of the most subtle allusions to the sub-genre that it’s impossible to catch all of the references to the big movie titles from the vanity genre.
And of course there’s some of my favorite indie fare to look out for: “Dismal” is a clear cut Texas Chainsaw Massacre throwback that involves kids in a swamp being tormented a madman. It’s out now. There’s also “Frat House Massacre” a wonderful eighties revenge slasher film in the tradition of “Prom Night,” now in the possession of Synapse films who is promising a big DVD release that I highly suggest you watch out for. And most recently films like “Dead Hooker in a Trunk” and “Hanger” stormed film festivals and movie websites as poor taste trash that managed to evoke some of the most visceral emotions imaginable. Most notably there was “Ticked Off Trannies with Knives” a homosexual revenge film that ponders on what happens when you push a transsexual woman much too far and they decided to get stabby. Israel Luna’s horror thriller was one of the highlights of my year in 2010, and it’s an indie darling that’s been a great pat on the back for the gay community who have been overlooked for far too long in the grindhouse gamut.
Fuck, there are people out there fueling the grindhouse movement. There’s no need to wait around for the Blu-Ray multi-disc release of “Grindhouse” from the Weinsteins when you could be missing out on the next big things from Ryan Nicholson whose made a career out of poor taste grindhouse eighties fare, and Israel Luna who is churning out some truly original revenge and splatter films that you can catch on to if you look hard enough. Meanwhile distributors like Cinema Epoch, Cult Epics, and the like are snatching up these gems that can give you one hell of a fun film festival that you and your friends can indulge in. I’ve yet to scratch the surface, but stay tuned. You might miss out on something good while waiting for the next so-so grindhouse flick from Tarantino.
May your films be blood splattered and your theater floors piss stained, ladies and gents.