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Film / Death Proof

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Death Proof, the more dialogue-oriented half of Grindhouse, is 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 Zoë Bell (playing herself), who also doubled for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and Mélanie Laurent in Inglourious Basterds in real life. Boy, is Stuntman Mike in for a world of hurt...

The German release ended up being the final wide release movie for the ill-fated HD DVD format ever, (the final ever release was Deadlands 2: Trapped, at a 500 copy run.)


These eight women are about to meet one diabolical trope:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Eli Roth previously hit on Jordan Ladd in Cabin Fever. She dies in both before he can get very far.
    • Abernathy claims that the director of their movie cheated on her with Daryl Hannah's stunt double. Lana Frank is played by Monica Staggs - who doubled for Daryl Hannah in both Kill Bill films.
    • Narrowly averted in the climactic scene. The car crashes through a sign for a drive-in where Wolf Creek is one of the films. John Jarratt, who played Mick in Wolf Creek, was considered for Stuntman Mike.
    • Jack Burton's tank top (white tank top with a Japanese Rising Sun and a Samurai) from Big Trouble in Little China can be seen hung up on the wall of the bar where the first segment of the film takes place. It is right above Jungle Julie,slightly to the right of the A Mi Jukebox.
  • 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.
    • And in the end it is Stuntman Mike, lying among the ruins of his no longer death proof car, who is screaming in pain, and pathetically begging the girls (whom he just tried to murder) to "help him". They beat him to death instead.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Averted with Stuntman Mike's gunshot wound. It causes him a great deal of pain that he can't ignore, and renders his entire arm pretty much useless.
  • As Herself: Zoë 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: Zoë car-surfing. And Butterfly during the lap dance.
  • 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 Zoë 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.
  • Berserk Button: After Mike attempts to run them off the road to kill Zoe, even though Kim wounded him, the three girls are very quick to decide their only course of action is to personally kill Mike. Kim in particular becomes more and more bloodthirsty for Mike's death the longer the chase goes on.
  • Big "WHY?!"?!: Stuntman Mike cannot understand why anyone would possibly want to do him harm.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Abby and her friends aren't terribly nice people, being foul-mouthed and 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. And of course, the villain is definitely worse...
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The second group of girls has Zoe as the blonde, Kim and Abby as the brunettes and Lee as the redhead.
  • Bob from Accounting: Stuntman Mike has a gag where he reveals that his brother is Stuntman Bob.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lee, being the ditz of the group, is always the target of some jokes, even being scared by Zoë, when she mistook her for an Australian and Zoë pretended that was her Berserk Button.
  • 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 literal gun, which she places in the Challenger's glove compartment and whips out to shoot Mike.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Zoë'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.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Kim says that Abernethy has never watched a car movie as she prefers Chick Flicks.
    Kim: Y'all grew up with that Pretty in Pink shit.
  • 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 that pays Buck and attempts to rape the Bride from Kill Bill.
    • Dr. Block makes a quick appearance in the hospital, showing that this takes place before the events of Planet Terror. Additionally, in Planet Terror there's a shout-out to Jungle Julia in loving memory.
  • Cool Car: Cool and totally death proof… as long as you're in the driver's seat, that is.
    • And you have to be buckled in. Once he gets shot and is forced to unbuckle in order to reach the bottle of whiskey in the glove compartment, the car isn't death proof for Mike anymore. Several times while the girls are chasing him, fully intent on killing him, he clearly wants to buckle up but can't, both due to his injury and the girls not giving him time to do so.
    • Also Mike's 1969 Dodge Charger in the second half of the film, and of course the white 1970 Dodge Challenger, especially for fans of the film Vanishing Point. Lampshaded by the fact that the girls want to drive it solely because it resembles the car from that film.
  • 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 she who kicks his head in.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Pam, Julia and Butterfly suffer these in their respective deaths; the former dies from get thrashed around in a death box with no seat belts while the latter two both die from blood loss due to getting her leg violently ripped off and getting her face simultaneously ripped off and crushed by a speeding tire.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The end; Kurt Russell gets knocked around by Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, and Tracie Thoms, until Zoë 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: Exaggerated with Arlene/Butterfly and her friends, who are all massacred by Stuntman Mike and the film then switches to an entirely different group of girls.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward: Stuntman Mike. He gets a kick out of murdering helpless women, but as soon as his next intended victims turn their fangs on him he runs with his tail between his legs.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: While she is seen occasionally wearing sandals, Jungle Julia frequently goes barefoot. She takes off her sandals in the bar and props her feet on a chair, and is always barefoot when riding in cars. She's also barefoot in her apartment before Shanna and Arlene arrive.
  • Ethical Slut: Kim is a sympathetic protagonist who has a history of being 'the other woman'.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: During Arlene's lap dance scene, Pam and the Crazy Babysitter Twins from Planet Terror can be seen getting into it.
  • 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 smart 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.
  • Five-Token Band: The second set of girls. Abernathy is a Latina (her actress is also part Native American), Kim is African-American, Zoe is a New Zealander, and Lee is a WASP.
  • Food Porn: Stuntman Mike really is enjoying those delicious nachos...
  • Foreshadowing: Completely subverted. The first half of the film features the characters talking about their trip to an isolated cabin with no boys allowed, setting up a seeming slasher-plot with the girls trapped at the cabin and having to fight for their lives. They don't ever get there, and are brutally killed off by Mike at the film's halfway point.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: The second set of girls. Abernathy is the level-headed and savvy Team Mom. Lee is the Head-Turning Beauty and most feminine. Kim is a tomboy obsessed with car movies, and who carries a gun. Zoe is not necessarily ditzy but is impulsive and ends up in silly situations (she once fell down a ditch even after Abernathy pointed it out to her).
  • 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: Zoë. 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.
  • Homage: Overall, the film apes other "Cool Car chase-porn" movies like Vanishing Point, Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds (1974).
  • 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?!?"
  • Irony: Lampshaded by Stuntman Mike. Arlene was furious at Jungle Julia's little statement about her on the radio, expecting to be pestered all night by perverts looking for a lapdance. But no one has approached her at all, wounding her pride a little.
  • 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 the fuck 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 did. I'm a girl. But I also watch car shit, too.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Shanna as the light to Julia and Arlene's dark.
  • 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.
  • Male Gaze:
    • The very first scene; the camera tilts up Jungle Julia's ass as she walks to the window.
    • In the bar, the shot starts on Arlene's ass as she dances to the music.
    • Lee gets a shot where her ass is in the foreground.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between:
    • The first set of girls. Shanna is the sweet, nice girl. Jungle Julia is rude, abrasive and snarky as the mean one. Arlene is in-between, with a rough edge but nicer than Julia.
    • And in the second set - Zoe is easily the nicest and friendliest (treating Lee much nicer than the other two), Abernathy is the grumpiest (who also has a Jerkass move of telling Jasper that Lee is a porn star), and Kim is in-between - sassy and ball busting but not mean spirited.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Mike gets beaten up by the three girls at the end of the movie. Serves him right.
  • No Seatbelts: On the drive to the cabin, Lanna, Shanna, and Jungle Julia aren't wearing their seat belts when Mike crashes his car into them, and Shanna ends up going through the windshield and onto the pavement in the crash because she's not buckled in. Julie and Lanna's injuries are also guaranteed fatal due to this fact. Subverted with Arlene, who is the only one buckled in. Not only does it not save her life, but she arguably gets one of the cruelest deaths with the spinning rear wheel of Mike's Nova ripping her face off as his car flies over theirs...
    • Also demonstrated in the second half. The Challenger the three girls are in didn't have them as standard equipment, and Mike has a custom belt installed in his Charger but he's unable to buckle back up due to his arm injury and the girls repeatedly rear-ending him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mike when he gets shot. Mike when he's trying to treat his gunshot wound by pouring whiskey on it. Mike when he see's the girl's Challenger in his rearview mirror, right before they ram him. Mike when Zoe is beating the crap out of him with a metal bar. Mike when the girls drag him out of his overturned car and start beating him to death.
  • Off on a Technicality: Discussed. Sheriff MacGraw theorises that if the first murder went to court, this would likely happen to Stuntman Mike; he was completely sober, while the four girls were extremely drunk, and even their designated driver was smoking a joint as the car hit them. The murder of Pam likely couldn't even get a reckless endangerment charge, since she was stood up by a date and asked him for the lift. Mike turning on the headlights before impact just makes it look like an unlucky accident.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Jungle Julia is always called that. The only one who uses her actual last name is Pam, who knew her in school.
    • As part of the lap dance scenario, Arlene must pretend she only answers to Butterfly.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: After Mike's failed attempt to kill the second group of girls, he gets this hard. Kim shoots him, Zoe repeatedly whacks him in the head with a metal pole, and when they finally run him off the road, he gets brutally beaten to death. And he has every second of it coming.
  • Plot Twist: Basically, the entire first half of the film. While the audience certainly knows Stuntman Mike is creepy, Jungle Julia, Shanna, and Arlene repeatedly talk about their planned trip to an isolated cabin with "no boys allowed," and the fact that Lanna is their designated driver to get them all there, leading the audience to expect that they're going to be stalked at the cabin, likely by Mike, in a familiar slasher film plot. This is only advanced further then the girls get in Lanna's car to leave. This entire set-up is almost gleefully subverted by Quentin Tarantino when the film reveals that all the discussion was for nothing, and all four of the first half female protagonists are intentionally, and horrifically slaughtered by Mike long before they reach that isolated cabin.
  • Police Are Useless: Double subverted. Sheriff Earl Macgraw quickly figures out that Stuntman Mike's first murder was premeditated and he was probably getting off on it. But he can't prosecute him for the following reasons: he wasn't drunk driving, Pam was stood up by her date and asked him for a lift, the other girls were all drunk or high, and Mike turned his headlights on right before the car crashed.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: At his core, Stuntman Mike is basically a mean-spirited child in an adult's body.
  • Really Gets Around: Jungle Julia, who is said to sleep with boys she used to pick on in school, apparently getting her billboards via the Casting Couch. Not that she minds this reputation...
    Jungle Julia: Black men and a whole lotta motherfuckin' white men have had plenty of fun adoring my ass. I don't wear their teeth marks in my butt for nothing.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: As is frequently the case with Tarantino films. The entire soundtrack is made up of non-original music. One notable piece in particular is the brassy 1970's music that plays during the vehicle chase at the end of the film, which is from an obscure 1970's Italian film, "A Special Cop in Action."
  • 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: Zoë 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."
  • She's Got Legs:
    • Jungle Julia rides in the car with her feet hanging out the window. Many of her billboards show off her legs too.
    • Abernathy. Rosario Dawson. Cutoff skirt. Have mercy.
    • Arlene also wears short shorts that show off her legs.
  • Shocking Moments: Jungle Julia, Shanna, and Arlene, who we've been following as the protagonists from the start of the film, are suddenly all viciously killed off at the film's halfway mark, introducing us to four completely new protagonists.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The girls discuss how the 1970 white Dodge Challenger is the exact same kind of car as the one in Vanishing Point. They go on to discuss other car-chase classics like Gone in 60 Seconds (1974).
    • The "angry duck" hood ornament on Mike's car is Mr. Horsepower, the logo of Clay Smith Cams, a famous hot rod shop in Buena Park, CA and is identical to the hood ornament on Rubber Duck's truck in Convoy.
  • Sinister Car: Stuntman Mike's car is a souped-up monstrosity that tears through other cars while leaving its psychotic driver unharmed. Anyone unlucky enough to ride in its passenger seat also gets pulped by Mike's crazy driving, as the passenger seat has all of its safety features removed.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Shanna and Julia in their first scene in the car. Arlene thinks they're actually fighting before Shanna assures her it's just playful banter between them.
  • Southern Belle: Shanna has a southern accent and a very sweet, flirty personality.
  • 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.
  • The Stoner: All of the girls (except Pam) from the first group.
  • 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.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Jasper asks if the movie Lee is making is a porno, Abernathy starts to say no but then turns around and says yes.
  • 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. Zoe even has to add "bitch" in there when imitating her.
  • Token Minority: Julia in the first half of the film. As she's played by a half-white actress, this also invokes But Not Too Black.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Kim states that she does love John Hughes movies in spite of being The Lad-ette.
  • Town Girls: The first set of protagonists. Arlene is a Lad Ette who curses and smokes, and with a thick tomboyish 'noo yawk' accent (Butch). Jungle Julia is a glamorous celebrity with beautiful hair and luscious legs, with a hidden sweet side (Femme). Shanna may be a Southern Belle, but she's also a Hard-Drinking Party Girl that's a notch in between (Neither).
  • Trunk Shot: A Tarantino trademark, played with: it's a shot of Kim and Zoë 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.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Basically the Cronenberg Crash remade as a Slasher Movie.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: The film ends with one after Stuntman Mike gets the shit kicked out of him.