The 1970s were a heyday for exploitation films made for the sole purpose of playing at drive-in theaters. But as of late, that gritty, exploitative style of filmmaking has been making a major resurgence in the mainstream. With the restored Ms. 45 out this week on home video as a prime example, we revisit some of the most excessive examples of modern grindhouse and exploitation filmmaking.
By Tyler Doupe
Danny Trejo stars as Machete, a man betrayed by the people who hired him. After learning he has been double crossed, Machete strikes out on his own, seeking vengeance. There is no shortage of blood, bullets, explosions, or violence in this film. Machete is a great time and a brilliant throwback to the exploitation flicks of the 1970s.
Dead Hooker in a Trunk
The Soska sisters hit the ground running with this, their debut feature. The film is so violent that even the least sensitive viewers may find themselves a bit overwhelmed by its graphic nature, though veterans of exploitation cinema will love its over-the-topness. The title essentially sums up the entire plotline: identical twin sisters, Geek and Badass, wake up one day and discover that there is a dead hooker in the trunk of their car….
Hobo with a Shotgun
About as politically incorrect as it gets, but that's part of what makes it so fun. The Hobo (Rutger Hauer) just wants to peacefully coexist with those around him, but that turns out to be easier said than done when he wanders into a town overrun with crime and run by a morally bankrupt creep. This Hobo cannot bring himself to idly stand by and watch innocent people suffer, so he picks up a shotgun and begins doling out vigilante justice of the most violent kind.
Troma and Astron 6 teamed up for this excessive tale of a rapist who exclusively targets family patriarchs. The film is filled with every brand of violence and sexual excess imaginable, yet by some miracle, Father’s Day keeps from being completely idiotic and actually delivers a steady stream of laughs, some great action sequences, and an undeniably enjoyable audience experience. It goes without saying, but this film is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Kill Bill Volume I and II
The Bride (Uma Thurman) sets out with one objective: to kill Bill. Through two volumes, totaling the better part of five hours, The Bride is put through unthinkable tortures and yet somehow she lives to face Bill down in an epic finale. The way the extreme violence here is portrayed isn't just disturbing, it also enhances the fight scenes and provides an amazingly choreographed look and feel to the film.
The Devil's Rejects
Rob Zombie was raised on grindhouse cinema and is notoriously a fan of classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The Devil’s Rejects sent up classics like that and represents some of the director’s best work. This is the film Zombie was born to make. It picks up some time after the events of House of 1,000 Corpses and further follows the sadistic exploits of the Firefly family.
The Doom Generation
This Gregg Araki film explores nearly every kind of taboo imaginable. Rose McGowan and James Duvall play Amy Blue and Jordan White, a pair of reckless teens who are always up to no good. The nefarious duo picks up a traveler and the three of them go on a crazy bender of destruction. There is unthinkable violence, filthy dialogue, explicit sex -- and that's just during the opening credits.
The legendary Robert Englund stars in this Tim Sullivan helmed feature that blends grindhouse-style excess with a fairly typical backwoods horror plot; the result is a surprisingly enjoyable flick. As we bear witness to the total decimation of a group of spring breakers, viewers might find that they are cheering for the antagonists in this remake of the Herschel Gordon Lewis classic.
A biological weapon gone terribly awry causes humans to transform into grossly mutated zombies in Robert Rodriguez’s flick. Reformed go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) sports one of the coolest prosthetics ever imagined -- a machine gun leg -- in this segment of the 2007 double bill, Grindhouse.
Quentin Tarantino’s entry in the Grindhouse double feature stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a demented, murderous wheelman with a car that is built to stand up to any occasion. As always, Russell turns in a stellar performance and the audience is treated to a gritty throwback to the 1970s with modern flare and signature Tarantino visuals.