One interesting however minute exception you have to give “Phantom of the Grindhouse” is that it at least has its heart in the right place. And even when it rides off the rails in to complete nonsense, you can sense the cast are committed to delivering comedy to compensate for the apparent lack of budget. Its entire macguffin revolves around the group of characters throwing a big grindhouse festival to save an ailing movie theater, but we never actually get to see the festival being held. There aren’t even shots of the characters spreading the word of the impending movie marathon.
From the director of “Terror at Blood Fart Lake” and “I Spit Chew on Your Grave,” comes “Phantom of the Grindhouse” a relatively short, but valiant attempt to deliver a horror comedy. Rather than pad the run time with tedium, director Chris Seaver packs the first ten minutes of the movie with VHS style faux grindhouse trailers of varying quality. Truth be told, they’re the best part of the feature, and they seem to be inspired by the trailers from the Tarantino-Rodriguez feature with their version of “Don’t!” entitled “Nothing!”
From what I gathered, a local grindhouse is about to close, so to keep it open movie fan Christine (the lovely Desiree Saetia) concocts the double bill idea and a movie marathon in hopes of saving their beloved movie community. Just then an inexplicable phantom of the grindhouse (a la Phantom of the Opera) that seems to love Michael Jackson and Prince arises and begins murdering the characters and local staff one by one. There’s a lot of padding and meandering from the narrative with director Chris Seaver not even remotely trying to elicit a scare from his audience.
You can also sense most of the cast are doing nothing but improvising their lines, or at least riding off the rails from the script to go hog wild with comedy and wacky double takes. Like much of the contemporary takes on grindhouse, the film is soaked in eighties nods. So there’s a Weird Al spoof, a character that oddly enough does nothing but mimic Michael J Fox from “Back to the Future,” and the heavy implication that this movie is set in the eighties. Though, due to the clear lack of budget for the film itself, it’s hard to really figure out if that’s the intent. That said, while “Phantom of the Grindhouse” is fifty minutes of mostly nonsense, I didn’t hate it. I appreciated what it was going for, and I wish director Seaver had a bigger budget to deliver something even better than what we get here.