Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Where Were the GRINDHOUSE Girls? (How To Hate Away Half Your Audience)

rosegrind.jpgYou talking to me?

This will not be an essay about the wrong bad billboards for CAPTIVITY, a horror movie whose advertising was aimed, as the mother of one traumatized girl told the Los Angeles Times, “directly at your subconscious.” (Isn’t that where ads ought to strike us?) And should it be a surprise, during this wave of idiot-teenager-in-peril movies, that a studio (or its subcontractor) would get desperate or careless in the selling of yet another undistinguished genre movie?
This is about another instance of marketing gone awry — the selling of GRINDHOUSE, which despite hype, high awareness among movie fans, the charm of big name directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and decent critical support, opened this weekend to a meagre $11 million, well behind sillier kid-oriented fare like BLADES OF GLORY and MEET THE ROBINSONS.
Variety’s Anne Thompson cuts through the box office spin and gets to one problem: high costs and a longer than planned running time, which meant fewer showings per day. Despite a promise to the Weinsteins to deliver a double feature of sub-sixty minute mini movies, Rodriguez and Tarantino insisted that “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof” ought to be longer. As long as the directors wanted them to be. (Isn’t it clear now who’s running the show over there, when the director of the langourous, almost-great KILL BILLs puts his foot down twice in a row?)
But the studio, not the directors, that commissions the advertising.
That marketing campaign was downright nasty. Even if you account for the formulaic nature of movie trailers (stars! action! money quotes!) the message sent to me — a Tarantino fan, an action fan, a horror fan — was “This movie’s not for you. You’re not invited.”
What did I see?
Rose McGowan, scantily clad and terrorized. Rose McGowan, prosthetic leg shoved onto her/into her by some guy. Rose McGowan, prosthetic leg/machine gun. (Um…hooray, Rose McGowan? Go get ’em?)

Crazy doctor turned into melting zombie, going after wife and small son. (I’m all for zombie movies, but the gross melting human/chemical waste scenario has a limited fanbase)
And Kurt Russell. Love that guy, in his badass Snake Plissken mode. But something was off here. The trailer suggested that “Death Proof” was nothing more than a car chase/crash instigated by Kurt Russell, playing a stalker and killer of women: Yeccch. I had no idea, until I saw the movie, that his character met his match in a carload of tough, sexy young women — These are vintage Tarantino characters — hilariously rude. a quartet of Uma Thurmans or Jackie Browns that female movie fans will love. (And guys will idolize.) And Russell, as creepy as he is, portrays a character far more intriguing than the trailers indicate.
A word about the fake movie trailers by Edgar Wright (“Don’t”), Eli Roth (“Thanksgiving”) and Rob Zombie (“Werewolf Women of the S.S.”). In every case, the trailers are funnier than the actual movies they’re parodying. Only Wright seems to notice that type of movies they examine are so twisted — diseased, even, that jokes about them are infected, too. I wondered if Tarantino and Rodriguez couldn’t have found one female horror director to write or direct a trailer — or at least get one of the Splat Packers to parody a Grindhouse genre that was a formative experience for boys and girls of the drive in era: the women in prison picture, complete with (male) hostage taking and escape sequence.
One CAGED HEAT reference would have gone a long way to undo the undertone misogyny in the film — and overtones in GRINDHOUSES ads and hype.
Update: April 16. Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly tells QT to put away childish obsessions, arguing that “Death Proof” is a creative dead end for the writer/director who’s capable of better. I enjoyed the second half of Grindhouse more than the first (and it wasn’t just the the jolt of my caffeine break kicking in), but I do think it’s kind of embarrassing to see Tarantino, in “Planet Terror,” portraying a puke-talking rapist who’s so disgusting you can’t even look at him. The character, the entire scene, was loathsome. (I admit it: that’s when I looked at my watch and crept out to the lobby for coffee, thinking, “When will Edgar Wright‘s trailer be on?”
What do you think?

Be Sociable, Share!

6 Responses to “Where Were the GRINDHOUSE Girls? (How To Hate Away Half Your Audience)”

  1. JerryPDeer says:

    The thing is; Planet Terror is basically a love story. Yes, it’s only a love story, that a man could possibly love or even come up with as a writer. However, it’s a love story, but you cannot sell as being a love story to the targeted audience. Who make it easier to sell a woman with a M-40 for a leg to men, then to sell a LOVE STORY set AMONG ZOMBIES. Yep. I never saw that senetence coming, but it’s the truth because men are odd.
    Nevertheless, the misogyny of Death Proof ends, the moment Rosario Dawson’s character is refered to as A MOM. If you know QT. You know his respect for MOMS that comes from his own mother. Which leads to him making the second half of that film nothing more than a mom — a giver of life — chasing down someone who has ended life. That he has the MOM end Stuntman Mike’s, is a rather nice bit of QT business. For a film overflowing with QT bits of business.
    However, who expects or assumes, a woman — or any women – would want to see a film like Grindhouse? While I understand your assumption. Please point to me a film loved by most women that features zombies, M-40s for legs, and scantily clad women filmed as scantily clad. They advertised to those that they thought would see the film. Too bad they forgot the fact that most of the people who can see R-rated films now, could give two craps about exploitation cinema from a bygone past. But that’s a horse of a different colour.

  2. “They advertised to those that they thought would see the film.”
    True, Jerry. But somebody must have foreseen a limited audience: young men, fanboys only, because that was the opening weekend audience. Not enough for a hit. Effective ad campaigns don’t turn off as many people as it turns on to your movie. And Grindhouse’s ads so emphasized the piggish streak that I nearly turned down a free ticket to the movie. I was making every excuse not to go.
    You want zombie movies enjoyed by *many* women featuring zombies: DAWN OF THE DEAD (with Sarah Polley as the heroine), RESIDENT EVIL (w/ Milla Jovovich, quite scantily clad and cool). All the old Romero movies except the first one with zoned out Bar-bar-a had unusually strong women.
    Scantily clad, shamelessly boobtacular films that women dug? CHARLIE’S ANGELS — the bikini-idiocy was sold as girl power, for laughs. And it worked.
    M-80s for legs? Now, *this* is an original idea.

  3. JerryPDeer says:

    As Quint pointed out over at AICN. The Weinsteins decided to put this flick out on Easter weekend. Which is more of a family weekend than anything else, and 300 would have a hard time in such an environment. If they split the films in two and release them in a different environment. I will be curious if the women will come? They might if the Weinsteins advertise on the freakin internet.
    Your listing of a crap remake and films that I love (which are perceived as crap) could explain where the women went this weekend. They went to see the Reaping. At least it seems possible. Nevertheless, Charlies Angels has a fan. That’s a good bit of business right there.

  4. Here’s Quint’s post from AICN
    We’re all box office analyst/experts now, apparently. Okay, I’ll try. Easter weekend’s last few number one movies were:
    2006: Scary Movie sequel, $40m (PG-13)
    2005: Guess Who, $20M. (The Ring 2 was third)
    2004: The Passion of the Christ, $15M. 2nd: Hellboy, $10M.
    2003. Anger Management, $25M. (The ultralowbudget House of 1,000 Corpses wasn’t in the top 5, but it was profitable and it did help launch Rob Zombie’s directing career.)
    Yes, lots of kid/family movies come out on Easter weekend – it’s school break time for many districts. But if you look at the movie listings for each year, there’s a glut of mediocre comedies all out at once. It’s smart to put out a movie for the older crowd that’s sick of the tweener crap.
    As for 300: those trailers and print ads were the hottest, most intriguing ads I’ve seen in years. I didn’t care what the reviews said, or how stupid anyone said the movie might be: show me crazy ancient warriors, gorgeous men, gorgeous women, a vaguely highbrow conceit: I’m there.

  5. Screen Rant says:

    “300”, which has been out for weeks, still managed to pull in $8.4MM this weekend.
    “Grindhouse” was too long for the type of film it is, plus as stated above, it’s an uber-niche film catering to a very small audience. I don’t know why the studio is stunned it didn’t do better.
    BTW, I abso-freaking-lutely HATED Tarantino’s “Death Proof.” It bored my almost to the point of suicide with it’s never-ending, vacuous, f-bomb-laced dialog. I felt like I was watching an episode of “The View” filmed in a trailer park.

  6. Martha says:

    Justine… you’ve taken the thoughts right out of my head. When I watched the trailer and other promotions for Grindhouse I immediately realized that this woman was not being invited into the theater to watch. I felt like the girl who’s told to get lost, this is a boys club, no females allowed in, unless of course they’re scantily clad.
    I can’t begin to describe how creepy and ill that scene with the gun being shoved up Rose’s leg stump made me feel. It totally killed any thoughts I had about maybe seeing Grindhouse. I was already reluctant because of the long running time, but that scene was the coup de grace.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon