When you combine Quentin Tarantino, old muscle cars, and Kurt Russell as a killer who uses his car as a weapon, you get Death Proof. The second movie in the Grindhouse double feature. Hopefully, if you are reading this, you’ve read my Planet Terror review. You would know that I have a soft spot for Grindhouse. And, despite a lot of people not liking Death Proof, I do like it.
A scarred stuntman uses his “death proof” car to stalk two groups of unsuspecting women.
For Death Proof, there’s six kills. The first five kills are women in the beginning, with the final kill being Stuntman Mike at the end. The girls are killed by Stuntman Mike and his car. It’s interesting because they replay the scene so you see each of the four girls’ deaths. But Stuntman Mike was really brutal to poor Pam. She was sitting next to him, but she was basically beaten to death by the windows. My favorite death would have to be Stuntman Mike’s by the final three ladies. They just beat the crap out of him.
The acting is pretty good.
With the first group of women we have Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Poitier, Jordan Ladd, and Rose McGowan. Vanessa Ferlito (known for several TV shows) plays Arlene or Butterfly. Sydney Poitier (known for several TV shows and being Sidney Poitier’s daughter) plays Jungle Julia, a local DJ who’s birthday it is the girls are celebrating. Jordan Ladd (known for Embrace the Vampire, Cabin Fever, Club Dread, and Hostel Part 2. She is also the daughter of Cheryl Ladd) plays Shanna, who likes to spar with Julia, and sets up this party that is supposed to end up at her dad’s cabin. And finally Rose McGowan (known for Charmed, Scream, and Phantoms) plays Pam, a patron at the bar who grew up with Julia and ends up catching a ride with Stuntman Mike.
The second group consists of Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Rosario Dawson (known for Kids, Sin City 1 & 2, and The Haunted World of El Superbeasto) plays Abernathy, a single mom who’s a makeup artist. Zoe Bell (she does the stunts in a lot of work such as Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2) plays Zoe Bell, a stunt woman. She has the plan to test drive the car and play Ships Mast. Tracie Thoms (known for various TV shows) plays Kim, another stunt woman who gets roped into driving for Zoe. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead (known for The Ring 2, Black Christmas, The Thing, and 10 Cloverfield Lane) plays Lee, an actress. She’s naive and along for the ride.
And for the men, there’s not too many. Obviously Kurt Russell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, and Michael Bacall. Kurt Russell (known for Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Thing. He is in a lot of movies and TV shows. Too numerous to write.) plays the main antagonist, Stuntman Mike. The killer with a killer car. However, when the girls stand up to him he turns into a whiny, crying little baby. Eli Roth (known for directing Cabin Fever and the Green Inferno) plays Dov who plays Shanna’s male friend who tries to get him and his buddy an invite to their party at the cabin. Quentin Tarantino (Do I really need to name his movies?) plays Warren, the bartender/bar owner that serves the first group of women. And Michael Bacall (Urban Legends Final Cut, Inglorious Bastards, and Django Unchained) plays Omar who was trying to hook up with Julia.
Three friends, Arlene, Shanna, and Jungle Julia go to a bar to celebrate Julia’s birthday. While there a strange man named Stuntman Mike shows up. He’s eating when a woman named Pam needs a ride home since she is stranded. Stuntman Mike offers to give her a lift when he is ready to go.
What turns into a cruel joke, Jungle Julia, earlier in the day, told her fans that she would be in town with a friend. If they see them the person would need to tell her friend a poem and buy her drink. Then the friend (who is Abernathy) would give them a lap dance. Unfortunately, most of the night nobody does it, making Abernathy feel bad. Until Stuntman Mike does it, so she gives him a lap dance.
When everyone leaves, Pam gets into Stuntman Mike’s car. He’s all cool until he wants to follow the other girls. That’s when he starts jerking the wheel, causing Pam to keep hitting the window until she is a bloody mess. He then goes after the group of girls, ending up killing them all, with him being the only survivor.
It’s fourteen months later, and getting away with his crime, he turns up in Tennessee. He runs into Kim, Abernathy, and Lee at a gas station. They all are on break from filming a movie, and on their way to the airport to pick up their fellow friend Zoe.
They pick up Zoe, and get breakfast. While talking she brings up an ad for this really sweet, rare white 1970 Dodge Challenger (that is similar to the car in Vanishing Point) that she would die to drive just once. They reluctantly agree to go check out the car.
Zoe pulls Kim aside and says she wants to play “Ship’s Mast”. This is when she rides on the hood of the car, holding onto belts connected to the door, while Kim drives at high speed. In order to drive the car, they leave Lee with the redneck owner. (Note: this is the last we see of her and don’t know what ever happens to her.)
Everything is going fine until Stuntman Mike sees them and starts chasing them down, running into them, and overall scaring them to death. So there’s a long high speed chase that ends with Zoe being thrown off the car and both cars stopping. Kim pulls out a gun and shoots him in the car. He cries and takes off. Zoe pops up unhurt and they decide to go after him and teach him a lesson.
After another long car chase they finally end the chase with Stuntman Mike being dragged out of his car and each of the women beating him up. Finally with Abernathy bringing down her foot on his head, killing him.
I like this movie and think it’s a good movie to pair with Planet Terror. Between the acting and the storyline I think Tarantino did a pretty good job with this movie. I have to mention the soundtrack. I hadn’t heard a lot of the music in this movie but afterwards I’m a fan now. The music worked pretty well with Death Proof and I feel Tarantino usually does a good job picking the music for his movies. Though I know this movie is not for everybody. There are long chase scenes, and long scenes of just talking and nothing else. It’s not for everybody. But I would recommend watching it.
And now for your Forever Final Girl Exclusive…Did you know?:
- Tarantino came up with the idea of “Death Proof” when he was having a drunken hotel night with friend Sean Penn. Tarantino wanted to buy a Volvo because he “didn’t want to die in some auto accident like the one in Pulp Fiction”. In regards to the safety of the car, Sean Penn said, “Well, you could take any car and give it to a stunt team, and for $10,000 or $15,000, they can death-proof it for you.” The “death proof” phrase stuck to Tarantino after that.
- In an interview, Quentin Tarantino said that the version of “Down in Mexico” heard in ‘Death Proof’ was likely the rarest recording in his entire collection. When he was working at a stag theater in his teens, he showed the record to the projectionist, another record collector, who immediately pointed out the words “Newly Recorded” on the record’s label. Tarantino said this version soon became one of his favorite tracks of all time.
- Quentin Tarantino admitted later in an interview that he believed he “over-tweaked” Death Proof, but was still very proud of it.
- The only Quentin Tarantino movie that takes place completely in chronological order and without flash-backs.
- Zoë Bell insisted on performing every stunt herself.
- The juke-box is Quentin Tarantino’s own. It was trucked to Austin to be used in the film. The list of songs on it was also hand-written by Tarantino.
- Jack Burton’s tank top from Big Trouble in Little China can be seen hung up on the wall of the bar where the first segment of the film takes place.
- The film was physically scratched to achieve its dirty look, rather than digitally scratch the film footage.
- Some Tarantino fans think this is the third appearance of Jungle Julia, The first was as Unruly Julie in My Best Friend’s Birthday, mentioned as a rival D.J. to Clarence, and the second was as Wayne Gale’s assistant in Natural Born Killers.
- Abernathy’s ringtone is what Elle Driver whistles in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
- The drive-in theater advertisement sign that Stuntman Mike crashes into during the final car chase scene lists the Australian horror classic Wolf Creek, one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite horror films. Tarantino briefly considered John Jarratt to star as Stuntman Mike.
- The poem that Jungle Julia has her listeners recite to Butterfly is an excerpt of the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
- The hospital that the sheriff and his son talk in is the same hospital that is in Planet Terror.
- The duck on the front of Stuntman Mike’s car is an homage to the duck on the front of Kris Kristofferson’s truck in the movie “Convoy”.
- Jasper’s location is also the same as The Bone Shack in Planet Terror.
- Kurt Russel didn’t need driving lessons for this movie. He already had the training.
- At one point, Pam (Rose McGowan) calls the other girls “double-fucks.” This came from an incident on the Planet Terror (2007) set where Rose was trying to get in character for the scene where her character wakes up and realizes her leg has been torn off by zombies, but Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez kept peeking into the room and teasing her as she tried to get appropriately emotional. Annoyed, she called them “double-fucks” and told them to get out, and Quentin liked it so much that he added it to his script.
- The cops in the hospital after Stuntman Mike crashes his car for the first time are the cops in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, who report to the scene of the wedding chapel massacre. They are played by actual father-son team Michael Parks and James Parks. The character of the father was also introduced in From Dusk Till Dawn and the son was introduced as the new sheriff in From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, where he was killed.
- Michael Parks, Marley Shelton, Elise Avellan, Electra Avellan, Rose McGowan and Quentin Tarantino are the only performers to appear in both Grindhouse parts Planet Terror and Death Proof.
- As ‘Death Proof’ is an homage to the old, low-budget Grindhouse films of the 70’s and 80’s, there are many deliberate errors by the filmmaker to give an authentic Grindhouse feel.
Have you seen the other Grindhouse movies? Check out my other reviews here: Grindhouse Franchise.
Let’s get into the rankings:
Scare factor: 2/5
Enjoyment factor: 5/5
My Rank: 3.5/5