Quentin Tarantino on ‘Grindhouse’ & ‘Death Proof’s Box Office Failure: “Too Cool for School”

Roadshow Entertainment

Grindhouse was a fun little experiment. 

In 2007, filmmakers and buddies Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up to craft a double-bill experience that served as an homage to the exploitation double features of the 60s and 70s. Tarantino directed Death Proof, which told of a group of women being stalked by a scarred stuntman (played by Kurt Russell), and Rodriguez’s Planet Terror had an experimental bio-nerve gas cause havoc and turn people into flesh-eating, mutating zombies.

I was lucky to see both films in its intended Grindhouse presentation, complete with faux movie trailers – which Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright directed. From what I remember, Australia only had a handful of Grindhouse screenings, although each film was unveiled on its own for a short theatrical run. It was generally well received by critics and audiences – at least those who went to see it. It simply didn’t do well financially, making $US25 million worldwide from an overall budget of around $US67 million.

Answering a fan question for Empire, Tarantino said he believed the failure was due to them misjudging how aware wide audiences were of the Grindhouse era of cinema.

“With Grindhouse, I think me and Robert just felt that people had a little more of a concept of the history of double features and exploitation movies. No, they didn’t. At all. They had no idea what the fuck they were watching,” Tarantino said.

“It meant nothing to them, alright, what we were doing. So that was a case of being a little too cool for school.”

Tarantino also described his experience taking Shaun of the Dead and Baby Driver helmer Edgar Wright to see Death Proof on opening day in the U.K. – he was met with quite the humbling turn out.

“And we walk in the theatre and there’s about 13 people in there. On the opening 8.30 show, alright? [Laughs] That was a rather humbling experience. But we sat down and watched it and had a good time.”

In this writer’s opinion, both Death Proof and Planet Terror were enjoyable films, although the latter felt more accomplished as its intended Grindhouse homage. I personally thought that while Death Proof did offer a good time, the heavy stretches of Tarantino’s indulgent dialogue made it drag and didn’t quite suit the genre exercise.

Dimension Films