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Film: Death Proof

Death Proof is the more dialogue-oriented half of Grindhouse. A Quentin Tarantino film in which an aging stuntman uses his souped-up stuntcar to kill women on the open road. Little does he realize that a few of his second bunch of victims are stuntwomen... and among them is Zoe Bell (playing herself), who also doubled for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill in real life. Boy, is Stuntman Mike in for a world of hurt...


These eight women are about to meet one diabolical trope:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: When Stuntman Mike has kidnapped Pam and trapped her in his car, she reacts angrily at first and threatens to kill him. When she realizes she can't escape, she tearfully begs Mike to let her go and that she won't tell anyone. He mocks her situation before giving the death blow.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Stuntman Mike, well he needs no explanation. Dov and Omar are desperate to get the girls drunk so they can screw them. Nate whines to Arlene about only making out with her. Cecil Lewis, whom we don't even meet, sleeps with another woman on Abernathy's birthday. Lee's boyfriend gets turned on by watching her pee. All of Kim's boyfriends have been stolen from another woman. The one exception seems to be Warren the bartender - who just happens to also be the director of the movie.
  • All Women Are Lustful: The women themselves aren't exactly prudes either. Jungle Julia essentially whores her friend out over the radio, flirts shamelessly with anyone (including Shanna's own father) and has her legs on display everywhere. Arlene does the lap dance out of an attack on her pride. Kim has a habit of stealing other women's boyfriends. Lee allows a man to watch her pee so he can get off to it.
  • As Herself: ZoŽ Bell in a rare non cameo appearance that isn't a parody.
  • Aside Glance: After the first set of girls drive away from the bar stone-drunk and Stuntman Mike has lured another victim into his own car, he momentarily glances at the camera and smirks before going on his killing spree.
  • Attention Whore: Stuntman Mike accuses Butterfly of being this, noting that she likely expected guys to be pestering her all night after Jungle Julia's radio broadcast.
  • Badass Driver: Stuntman Mike and Kim.
  • Bare Your Midriff: ZoŽ car-surfing.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Played straight and averted, depending on which girl you're talking about. Played straight - Shanna is thrown from the car and lands on the road apparently undisfigured while Lanna Frank hits the dashboard amid broken glass that doesn't cut her face. Also ZoŽ makes it through the first car chase without a single scratch and barely any dirt, despite getting thrown off the car into a field. Averted - Pam's face gets covered with blood as she is killed. Jungle Julia's leg gets sliced off in the crash and the spinning wheel of Mike's car rips Arlene's face off.
  • Bechdel Test: The second group of girls pass this just fine. They do briefly talk about the men in their lives, but they also talk about their work, films, cars, guns, and the time ZoŽ fell in the ditch.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Abby and her friends aren't terribly nice people, playing some pretty cruel jokes on Lee (who is an airhead but doesn't do anything otherwise to deserve that treatment) and then dumping her as collateral with a seriously sleazy guy (while lying about her being a porn star) so they get to be insanely reckless with a car. Of course, the villain is a lot worse...
  • Butt Monkey: Poor Lee, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Being the ditz of the group, she's always the target of some jokes, even being scared by ZoŽ, when she mistook her for an Australian and ZoŽ pretended that was her Berserk Button.
  • Brainless Beauty: Lee Montgomery.
  • Call Back: Stuntman Mike drops a Double Entendre on Butterfly saying "I just got lucky", echoing the same quote made by Nate earlier. In both cases, the guy gets Butterfly to do something kinky.
  • The Cameo: Quentin Tarantino as Warren the bartender. Dakota Block, her brother and Earl McGraw in the middle of the film. Also the Crazy Babysitter Twins from Planet Terror show up during Butterfly's lap dance.
  • Camera Sniper: Stuntman Mike watching the second group of girls from his car. They walk in slow motion as Stuntman Mike adjusts the camera focus to follow them.
  • Car Fu: A large chunk (roughly the last six minutes of the movie).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kim's.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: ZoŽ's ability to always land on her feet. The girls talk about it in a joking way, but it saves her life later on.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • While Kim may drop the word "bitch" a lot, Abernathy outdoes her in the amount of shits and fucks she drops.
    • Arlene is a fucking machine gun in the bad-language department.
  • Compensating for Something: Lee and Abernathy watch Stuntman Mike burn rubber out of the service station in his Dodge Charger R/T 500 and conclude, "Little dick." Given that he gets his kicks by killing women with his car, and is later shown sitting with the hood ornament between his legs, they may be right.
  • Continuity Nod: The reappearance of Earl McGraw. See above. Also, Jasper the redneck seems to be the same person as Buck from Kill Bill.
  • Cool Car
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Abby. She disapproves of Kim's gun and complains when they are going to do a stunt. After Stuntman Mike pissed her off enough, she suggested killing him. And later, it is actually her who kicks his head in.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle - The end; Kurt Russell gets knocked around by Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, and Tracie Thoms, until ZoŽ roundhouses him on his ass, and Rosario ax-kicks his head in.
  • Curse Cut Short: Kim slamming the door cuts off the end of Abernethy's "I gotta take a piss".
  • Death by Sex: Inverted. The first girls, in spite of acting all wild, are actually pretty uptight about sex (especially Arlene/Butterfly), and they die. The second group, on the other hand, are very open about their sex lives, and they not only survive, they kill the bad guy!
  • Decoy Protagonist: Butterfly, along with a whole decoy supporting cast!
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The entire first half makes you ask when something, anything is actually going to happen. As per Halfway Plot Switch below, this is deliberate — low budget films had a lot of filler of people talking because action scenes were expensive.
  • Fan Disservice: Jungle Julia's long luscious legs getting ripped off in a car crash.
  • Faux Affably Evil: While stalking his victims, Stuntman Mike takes the guise of a cheesy but occasionally charming guy to hide being a murderous pervert. After getting run off the road, he tries to give his second batch of would-be victims a cheery salute for surviving, but they're not playing around.
  • Fanservice: The opening has a long shot of Julia's underwear-clad bum. The extended cut also includes Butterfly giving Mike a lap dance (subverted in the theatrical cut with a "Missing Reel" over that scene). And if you've got a foot fetish, you're in luck, because so does Tarantino.
  • Final Girl: Quentin himself noted during interviews about this film that he is a major fan of Carol Clover's writings on slasher films. As such, part of the thrill of the first half involves how he consciously plays with this trope in particular: Arlene/Butterfly is set up from the beginning to be a played-straight Final Girl in a standard slasher—especially how she's portrayed as rather "apart" from her friends, and not as open in her sexuality. Alas, she ends up dying with the others—which, as Quentin anticipated, is a big shock to a Genre Savvy audience....
  • Five Second Foreshadowing: When Pam realizes that Stuntman Mike isn't actually going to give her a ride home, there's a super close up of her eyes. One second before Stuntman Mike hits the gas and speeds off... With Pam locked in the passenger side.
  • Food Porn: Stuntman Mike really is enjoying those delicious nachos...
  • Fruit Cart: In the final car chase, the girls are amused when they drive through an old boat sitting out in the middle of a field for no apparent reason. "Did you just hit a boat?"
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Stuntman Mike has a large scar running down his face. He's... a terrible person. He also sarcastically claims he Cut Himself Shaving.
  • Grin of Audacity: ZoŽ. While she is legitimately scared shitless during Stuntman Mike's attack on their car, she bounces back from being thrown off the hood and even quips "Whew, that was a close one!" before suggesting that they all go after Mike.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Halfway through, the movie is filmed with a very different style, with very different characters, in a very different place. It was almost like watching a sequel in the middle of the first movie! The film itself foreshadows this plot switch. During the opening, the film briefly shows one of the films was originally called Thunder Bolt. Reading an interview with Tarantino reveals that this is actually exactly what's supposed to be going on. A bit of Truth in Television — the shoestring nature of the B-movie industry meant a lot of half-finished productions. These might be finished by an entirely different crew, or by just editing in footage from another unrelated half-finished production. Monster A-Go Go is a classic example of this technique going utterly wrong.
  • Heal It With Booze: Stuntman Mike sterilizes his wound with some liquor, screaming as he does so. Then he drinks from the bottle to calm his nerves. Cue Spit Take when he sees the girls in their car speeding up in his rearview mirror, intent on revenge.
  • I Ate What?: Booze version. Warren orders a round of Chartreuse shots for Julia's table. Arlene barely gets half the shot down her throat before gagging, sputtering "What the fuck is that?!?"
  • Jabba Table Manners - Watching Stuntman Mike noisily and messily slurping down his plate of nachos in his introduction is enough to tell you that this guy is going to be a creep.
  • The Lad-ette: Discussed when Kim makes a comment about most girls not having seen Vanishing Point.
    Abernathy: Most girls? I'm sorry, what are the two of you?
    Kim: We're gear heads, of course we watched it. Y'all grew up watching that Pretty in Pink shit.
    Lee: Aw, I like Pretty In Pink.
    Abernethy: What? You've never watched John Hughes movies?
    Kim: Of course. I'm a girl. But I also watch car movies.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Going hand in hand with Real Women Don't Wear Dresses. The first group of girls all have very long hair, elbow-length at the shortest. They die. In the second group of girls, they have much shorter hair to indicate their Ladette tendencies (except for Lee, but she isn't included in the car chase). They don't die.
  • Loud Gulp / Saying Sound Effects Out Loud - Lee actually says "Gulp" when she realizes her friends have left her with Jasper.
  • Market-Based Title - In-Universe. Death Proof was apparently released as Thunder Bolt in some markets, as suggested by the title card that appears for a split second before the "correct" title is superimposed.
  • Mating Dance: The lapdance Butterfly gives Stuntman Mike while lip-syncing to "Down in Mexico" by The Coasters. Afterwards, Butterfly and Jungle Julia joke that thanks to the dance Pam (who's taking a ride home with Mike) will end up getting laid because of it.
  • May-December Romance: Defied. People keep joking that Pam is hooking up with Stuntman Mike, but she loudly protests that he's too old. Then he murders her.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: After all his bluster, Mike cringes, whines, and sobs over the fleshwound he receives.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Jungle Julia has magnificent hair that goes well past her waist. Pam remarks that it's thanks to "lots of leave-in conditioner". Pam and Shanna have some pretty lengthy hair themselves too.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Tarantino said that he wrote Kim essentially as a female version of Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: Stuntman Mike rattles up three blonde victims. Notable is Pam, played by Rose McGowan with blonde hair. She was a brunette in Planet Terror, where she lived.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: ZoŽ as she prepares to play ship's mast.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    • "Why's he called Stuntman Mike?" "'Cause he's a stuntman."
    • "What's a cheerleader movie?" "A movie about cheerleaders."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The girls discuss how the 1970 white Dodge Challenger is the exact same kind of car as the one in Vanishing Point.
    • The hood ornament on Mike's car is Mr. Horsepower, the logo of Clay Smith Cams, a famous hot rod shop in Buena Park, CA.
  • Speech-Centric Work: The film is very talky, even for a Tarantino film. This was part of the pastiche of grindhouse films, which were often very talky because they had little budget for anything else.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Stuntman Mike.
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm Scream is heard after Stuntman Mike runs over the first car.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Jungle Julia is bitchy, cold, and passive-aggressive to everyone but sends texts to her boyfriend saying "I miss you" and smiling genuinely when he texts her back kisses.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Driving in the middle of the night, drunk, high out of their minds, blasting loud music, and sticking their legs out of the windows, they were practically begging for an accident.
    • Stuntman Mike laughs when he thinks he's shaken off Kim and the others. Seconds later he's rammed off the road.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Virtually all of Kim's dialogue.
  • Trunk Shot: A Tarantino trademark, played with: it's a shot of Kim and ZoŽ from under the hood.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Stuntman Mike gradually loses his tough guy act the minute three of the girls in the second half of the film fight back.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lee is left behind with Jasper, the redneck who owns the Dodge. We never find out what happened to her, or what happened when the girls returned the ruined car.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Jungle Julia, Shanna, and Arlene.

Planet TerrorFilms of 2005 - 2009 Hairspray
Planet TerrorB-MovieTransmorphers
Planet TerrorHorror FilmsGrizzly
The Corpse Stops HereImageSource/Live-Action FilmsGroundhog Day

alternative title(s): Death Proof
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