Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quentin Tarantino and Horror

After watching Inglorious Basterds this weekend, I was suddenly struck with a little bit of wonder: does Tarantino actually know how to make a movie anymore?

While the shots are great and the acting quite good, the action of Basterds falls quite short, with a lot of boring exposition between some truly great action scenes. I wanted to like Basterds, I really did, but ultimately, it was Tarantino trying to write Tarantino-esque dialogue... and failing.

I was not enthralled by the characters (aside from Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine and the Jew Hunter) and it was just overall very bland film making. It was too bad, but almost worth sitting through 2 hours of stuff for the 45 minutes of awesome action scenes that were contained within. Sorry Johnny, but I just can't get behind this movie. I know this all seems like a bit of a tangent, but it brings me to my previous point of Tarantino knowing how to make a movie.

He started off with a couple of bangs: Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Then Jackie Brown and Kill Bill followed up more than amply. Then we get to the grindhouse feature of Death Proof.

Much like Basterds, Death Proof, to me at least, was Tarantino trying too hard to write the dialogue that made him famous. But he failed. And the thing about Death Proof wasn't that it was a bad movie. I would have liked it a lot more if it wasn't a part of the Grindhouse features. I can handle a bit of dialogue. I can even handle the inordinately large amount of dialogue in Death Proof. But what I cannot handle is a "grindhouse" film that is 2/3 dialogue.

Grindhouse films, by definition, are all about one thing: exploitation. Whether it be sex, violence, or both (or maybe race), something has to be entirely blown out of proportions. It's over the top, it's action packed, it's fast moving and quick to be done. Death Proof is none of that. A grindhouse film with what amounts to basically 2 action scenes is not a grindhouse film. It's a dull horror film that gets praised because of a name attached to it. Look at the other half: Planet Terror. It's fast moving, gross as hell, and full of stupid one liners. It's quick to kill anyone off, you see a kid die, and all kinds of pus is splattered everywhere. It's basically the perfect homage to a grindhouse film.

Death Proof plods along (especially the extended version of the film) and fails miserably as a grindhouse flick. The worst part of that is the fact that we know Tarantino can write grindhouse. You want proof?

From Dusk Til Dawn, while directed by Robert "Planet Terror" Rodriguez, was written by Tarantino. It was amazing. It was fun. It was what a good grindhouse film should be. Why can't he do that again?

I think what has happened is that Tarantino has lost some of his fun in filmmaking. I will never dispute that he has made some amazing films. In fact, he doesn't make movies, he makes films. He is an auteur. But sometimes I feel like he is losing his focus on having a little fun and trying too hard with his dialogue. You see glimpses in Basterds, but unfortunately, he can't keep it focused. It's too bad, because it could have been so much more...


  1. I wonder if you aren't confusing the marketing of Tarantino's recent movies with the movies themselves. As you said, ""Deathproof" wasn't a bad movie," it just wasn't really a grindhouse movie. While I've yet to see Basterds, what you have described sounds like a great movie, with Tarantino playing to his greatest strength - dialog. What I liked most about "Pulp Fiction" was the balance between the great conversations and the needle to the sternum, ass-raping, etc. The same holds with most of his other movies, up to and including "Deathproof." Don't get me wrong, I love action and gore - and since this is a horror blog, you're excused for focusing on the gore - but that's not what has made Tarantino a great director. All cockblockery aside, it's about the dialog, not just the camera angles and inventive use of violence.

  2. You just can't beat the Salma Heyek dance sequence. Now, that's a musical!