A piece in celebration of Grindhouse cinema by Sam Tucker
For a lot of young moviegoers, when they hear the word “grindhouse,” they think of directors Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof) and Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror), or maybe recent breakouts such as S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk). These auteurs keep alive the gritty narratives, violence and raw content of cheap exploitation films, while using a more traditional style of direction and photography — quick zooms, long wide shots and steady cameras.
With all that in mind, you could call grindhouse its own genre, but maybe it’s something more. After speaking with Ryan Martel, guest curator of From the Grindhouse to the Arthouse series screening through August, I’ve become convinced that it’s more a state of mind — a coming together of an audience to be excited, intrigued and even shocked at what they are seeing on the screen.
Grindhouse is unconnected to a specific time period or subject matter, although a lot of films involve violence and, more often than not, a revenge plot. Many grindhouse movies of the late 1970s and early ’80s were made specifically for low-rent theaters, Martel says, or they were low-budget copies of popular slasher movies to be shown as double features at drive-ins.
There are no rules or standards that govern what a true grindhouse classic is. Consider three titles in the series — Empire of the Dark (1990), Liquid Sky (1982) and Savage Beach (1989). All have different themes, budgets, timeframes and creative motifs/references. The first features satanic cults and ninja assassins; the second, UFOs; the third, a sunken ship with lost World War II treasure.
So, if you are new to the grindhouse genre, you may be wondering, do I need to prepare myself for an onslaught of sex and gore? Martel, who has been screening cult movies for years, has some words of wisdom: “Biggest advice? Take a chance. Don’t look at the trailer. Look at the poster if it’s cool, but I think you should come and watch not expecting anything. You should come expecting to be entertained.” If you come in with an open mind, you are bound to have a unique experience. And the bonus is, “you supported something cool,” Martel says, “and contributed to a nonprofit that is bringing different things to Charlotte.”
Personally, I’d have a few glasses of your favorite beverage, grab some friends and enjoy an evening of something completely different from what you’ve seen on screen before, cell phones turned all the way off, of course.
Film writer Sam Tucker lives in Charlotte and loves talking rugby, movies and all other nerdy things.