With a fanatical love for the violent cult classics of old, in 2007 Quentin Tarantino teamed up with fellow provocateur Robert Rodriguez to bring audiences a landmark double feature named Grindhouse, harking back to cinema’s exploitation slashers. Whilst Rodriguez released Planet Terror, a bombastic blood-filled zombie flick, Tarantino went for something a little edgier with Death Proof, following a Hollywood stuntman who uses his beefed-up ‘death proof’ car to murder his victims at high speed.
Developed from Quentin Tarantino’s own fascination with the way stuntmen would work to survive high-speed crashes and collisions, the director recalls his creative process during the film’s production, commenting: “I realised I couldn’t do a straight slasher film, because with the exception of women-in-prison films, there is no other genre quite as rigid. And if you break that up, you aren’t really doing it anymore. It’s inorganic, so I realised—let me take the structure of a slasher film and just do what I do. My version is going to be fucked up and disjointed, but it seemingly uses the structure of a slasher film, hopefully against you.”
Disjointed the story certainly is, following the rules of a slasher film only to a certain degree, replacing the iconic sharp weapon with that of a muscle car. In line with Tarantino’s previous films, it was also the director’s intention to use pulpy practical effects and real-life car chases in the film, noting that, “CGI for car stunts doesn’t make any sense to me—how is that supposed to be impressive?”. Continuing, Tarantino recalls some of his favourite car chase scenes, commenting: “To me, the last terrific car chase was in Terminator 2. And Final Destination 2 had a magnificent car action piece.”
The real inspiration behind Death Proof came from Tarantino’s own desire to get a car, as well as his insistence that the car must be safe, as the director recalls, “I remember thinking that I didn’t want to die in some auto accident like the one in Pulp Fiction,” he said. Speaking about his options with a close friend, he was advised to take the car to a stunt team, who “for $10,000 or $15,000, could death-proof it for you”.
As Quentin Tarantino states, “Well, that phrase ‘death proof’ kinda stuck in my head,” making the inspiration behind the film bizarrely a result of the directors own careful nature. Considering the director’s compulsive urge for control on his films, however, and this fact may not be too surprising.