An epic exercise in cultural necrophilia, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s remembrance of cheap thrills past strives to re-create a B-movie double feature shown in a grade-Z theater. No one can say that the duo’s affection isn’t genuine; both spare no expense ($53 million, but who’s counting?) in resurrecting a bargain-basement rush, complete with MIA reels and sputtering prints that look like they’ve been marinating in hobo urine. The fact that the film’s fake two-minute trailers work better than the features, however, says something about the hot-air endeavor: Once the novelty of wallowing in a trash pastiche wears off, it’s just a matter of tabulating bullshit artistry points.
Rodriguez’s contribution, Planet Terror, is the runt twin, despite the fact that his goopy, loopy zombie romp nails the '80s New World Pictures aesthetic. The casting of bona fide B-actors like Rose McGowan is genius; the rest of his tribute could be entitled “If I Were John Carpenter.” Tarantino’s Death Proof—a mix of Hal Needham-esque stunts, slasher-horror and Degrassi High gabbing—simply drops the homage pretense halfway through and turns into another talky Tarantino joint. Only now his dialogue and shout-outs reek more of ego-tripping (the nod to Reservoir Dogs’ opening dolly shot proves that he’s no longer content referencing other directors’ work; he’s got to give himself props as well), and the indulgences overwhelm the handful of inspired moments. Not even mondo car chases and a Faster, Pussycat! ending can keep the whole Grindhouse megillah from being, to quote a filmmaker who once showed such promise, nothing but a wax museum with a pulse. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear