Relocating The Grindhouse: Cinemageddon and Exploitation Cinema In The 21st Century
by Mike Van Esler — University of Kansas
December 20, 2012 – 00:00
As Bill Landis demonstrated in both the magazine and book iterations of Sleazoid Express, the quintessential grindhouse experience was found in New York City’s Time Square (the Deuce, specifically) in the 1960s and 70s. However, starting in the 1980s, Times Square’s reputation as the sleazy side of the city began to wane with the commercial initiatives introduced by Mayors Koch and Dinkins bringing more ‘reputable’ businesses to the area, crowding out the grindhouses and dens of vice. Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to clean up the city in the 1990s were the death knell for grindhouses as we knew them.
Recently, however, I would argue we are seeing a resurgence in the community associated with exploitation cinema. Boutique BitTorrent websites that exclusively offer a selection of marginalized and exploitation cinema are the modern grindhouses. Cinemageddon is one of the best of these websites, boasting over 22,000 users and 93,000 torrents. Obviously a user cannot match the visceral experience of visiting the Deuce to catch a double bill (nor would they want to, perhaps); however, the sheer selection of hard to find exploitation films renders unto the user an entirely different and valuable exploitation experience.
Cinemageddon establishes itself as the connoisseur’s home by the extensive details offered for each torrent, such as DVD cover/poster art, cast listings, technical details regarding the transfer, and sample reviews among others. Additionally, each torrent’s page offers a comments section where users offer thanks, discuss their opinions of the film, or even reminisce about seeing the film in theaters or on television.
The community extends further when one visits the site’s forums, which offer a wide variety of discussion possibilities. Perhaps most interesting is the sub-forum devoted to projects, which are collections of movies started by users in the hopes of creating a complete collection. For example, ongoing projects include Joe D’Amato’s filmography, a Eurocrime film collection, and a compilation of the Shaw Brothers’ films, with many other projects also in the works. While in the days of the Deuce, perhaps only a relatively small number of people who lived in major urban centers in America would have access to exploitation films, anyone with the means and know-how to access BitTorrent websites (being fully aware of the digital divide) can screen these films. Perhaps paradoxically, the decentralized nature of both the Internet and BitTorrent has brought the exploitation community back, potentially stronger than ever.