The cult of grindhouse cinema is ever growing. In the 1970s, the audience for these kung fu, blaxploitation, sexploitation, samurai and horror films was limited to the denizens that frequented the rundown theaters of Times Square or rural drive-ins. But now there is a higher demand for the blood-and-guts, busted-bone and high-octane films that for years have been dismissed as B-movie schlock.
Partial credit for the grindhouse redux goes to director Quentin Tarantino, who essentially made the ultimate mix-tape in his Kill Bill epic, which featured homages to countless revenge flicks, spaghetti westerns and pulpy horror. The films brought back an interest in those blood-spattered narratives laced with traditional themes of honor among killers, tongue-in-cheek humor and wicked battles, opening the door of the geek-chic genre to audiences looking for something "new." Ironically, this new dose of originality was a four-hour homage to the midnight epics of the past.
Returning for its second year, the Grindhouse Film Festival stands to be the most kick-ass festival in town—in every sense of the term. While the first festival was exclusively traditional Asian fare, mostly Shaw Brothers kung fu epics, the second helping has expanded the lineup, giving a more traditional, 42nd Street feel. Along with a grip of kung fu and vengeance films, festival coordinator Dan Halsted has added a few other classics to the lineup. Among the expanded genre offerings are Jack Hill's 1973 Coffy, featuring a never-sexier shotgun-wielding Pam Grier as a vigilante nurse out to kill and hump her way to justice; Italian horror master Lucio Fulci's 1979 low-budget Caribbean-island-of-death gutfest Zombie; and director Sergio Leone's gritty 1965 classic, For a Few Dollars More, the second film in the legendary Man with No Name trilogy. Quite honestly, there is no better way to watch Fulci's epic zombie-vs.-shark battle than on a big screen in 35mm glory—same goes for Clint Eastwood's trademark sneer in Dollars.
Fans of Asian grindhouse and martial arts need not fret, as the festival will also feature several kung fu and vengeance epics—most notably the 1980 classic Shogun Assassin. Fist of the White Lotus and Executioners from Shaolin feature the legendary heroism of martial-arts master Gordon Liu (who played Pai Mei, the mythical, silver-bearded mentor in Kill Bill). The Asian films are presented in their original, uncut versions, and, as an added bonus, films produced by Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers Studio will be shown in the famous Shaw Scope.
This year's Grindhouse Film Festival promises to deliver an even bigger dose of spine-shattering, blood-splattering explosive action to eager audiences. "Last year, the crowd got really into it," says Halsted. "I've never seen a crowd get so loud and excited at the movies."
Now that shotgun blasts and flesh-eating zombies are mixed with fists of fury and the arterial spray of severed limbs, audiences could well riot. Here's hoping.
Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-4215. Friday-Sunday, Nov. 11-13. $6 per film, $30 festival pass. See www.grindhousefilmfest.com for full schedule.