Monday, April 9, 2007

A Taste of Sleaze to Come?

I haven’t seen Grindhouse yet, but the fact that box-office analysts are already calling it a failure is more irritating than it is discouraging. Though it may have performed below financial hopes or expectations, the film’s lackluster popularity among the weekend moviegoing crowd is not going to dissuade me or most other horror fans from seeing it – or appreciating and enjoying it, if predominant reviews are to be trusted. Grindhouse is a movie that was made for and marketed to what is essentially a niche audience, albeit a comparatively large niche, of cultish genre and Tarantino/Rodriguez fans, and success by those standards is difficult to gauge in terms of gross profits. Plus, I’m betting the thing makes serious bank when it opens overseas and on video.

What bothers me is the industry perception of success, or lack thereof, because it is that perception that more often than not dictates the future. Grindhouse was funded on the Weinsteins’ faith in Tarantino and Rodriguez, which itself was based on the financial accomplishments of their previous movies (which cost little to produce and yielded high returns). Kill Bill proved to the suits that calculatedly “cult” movies could make money, so there was little reservation in throwing $53 million at Tarantino and Rodriguez so they could spend a summer in Austin with a bunch of strippers and a truck full of fake blood. The perception, however misguided or incomplete, that this experiment is a failure is bad news for people who dig this stuff. People like, oh, me.

The idea of a double-feature of sleazy “vintage” horror films with fake trailers for other sleazy vintage horror films sandwiched in-between is the kind of thing that gets me excited. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched Eli Roth’s fake Thanksgiving trailer 14 times since it was posted online last week, and it’s not because I was in a holiday mood. There’s a palpable sense of heart and enthusiasm behind an atypical project like this. In an interview conducted for a MySpace promo clip, Tarantino says he feels compelled to make movies for audiences of a particular persuasion because he’s lucky enough to be able to do so, that it’s his duty, and I think that’s a genuine statement. I want to see more movies made this way, and not just horror films. I want to see more people taking risks and making movies that they’re excited about from a perspective of appreciation, even if the object of that passion is just something as relatively inconsequential as the glory days of the grind house. At one time there was talk of direct-to-video “spinoffs” of Grindhouse based potentially on the fake trailers shown between the features (plans which might be in jeopardy with Grindhouse now branded a “failure”). I want to see more film franchises handled in a similar fashion, not with sequels and remakes but with fresh ideas inspired by a compelling concept.

I want to flip the cinematic finger at the box-office nay-sayers and make Grindhouse a success in whatever terms necessary to make more horror happen this way.

And most of all, intead of another lame torture movie, I want Roth to make Thanksgiving and release it on video in one of those old giant VHS boxes the size of Hungry Man frozen dinners. For that kind of holiday feast, I’d save room for seconds.