One of my favorite movies, and television series, along with a flavor of the month for horror, would be the film From Dusk till Dawn, the amazing cross-genre masterpiece from two undoubted movie masters of horror – Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Together they wove a tale of two spree killers from a straight crime drama who wander into a horrific den of vampires. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on From Dusk till Dawn.
I loved this movie and have wished so many times that I had been unaware of the twist when I first saw it. I wanted to be blissfully ignorant of the vampires when I had been enjoying this classic Tarantino crime thriller as the Gecko brothers murdered their way across the southwest. The Geckos, sadistic pervert Quentin Tarantino and master strategist George Clooney need to get across the border to Mexico to meet their connection, and to do it, they kidnap lapsed priest Harvey Keitel and his family.
So much talent here, and wonderful dialogue as one would expect, the first fifteen to twenty minutes roll like a continuation of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, the crime thriller pulp is so thick, but once our cast of characters make the border and wait for their agent at a sleazy biker bar called the Titty Twister, things go quickly awry. It’s not a bar, it’s an ancient pyramid filled with vampires ready to feast. The real fighting starts as our protags must tear their way through the undead to safety. Not everyone makes it.
The film is a perfect mix with set rules. It has just the right amounts of terror and fear, humor and violence. All the best of both worlds of Tarantino and Rodriguez are highlighted here. And the wacky cast of characters introduced at the bar are classic. I loved Sex machine, and especially Machete, masterfully played by Danny Trejo, who would go on to appear as the character in more than a few characters. There are so many great performances here, along with great writing and direction. Most who loved the movie couldn’t wait for more… and would later wish we hadn’t…
Let me honest here, the less said about Texas Blood Money and The Hangman’s Daughter, the better. The fact that they were both direct-to-video says more than I can ever say here. Robert Patrick, Danny Trejo, and even a cameo by Bruce Campbell can’t save this one. In my opinion the only thing this first sequel does well is mix the genres of crime and vampire, but by the time this had come out, that trick had become more than a little stale.
Much like the third act of Back to the Future, the third movie in this series also takes place in the Old West, but with more of a historical bent, trying to give a sense of past to the stage of the original film. Admittedly this chapter did better with critics than Texas, but The Hangman’s Daughter was still no From Dusk till Dawn. It did attempt to give more of a background to the world and the vampires – a past that would come into play in the TV series, which I do actually like. My advice is to see the original and skip these two prequels.
Launched along with Robert Rodriguez’ wonderful El Rey network, the television series “From Dusk till Dawn” does what the prequels could not do. It not only retells the story of the original movie perfectly, it also includes the history and backstory of the prequels without seeming intrusive. There’s a terrific flow, and it works so well, I have to give serious thought to whether or not it’s as good as or better than the original film.
The cast rocks, from the folks from the prequels like Danny Trejo and Robert Patrick to the terrific new additions like Wilmer Valderama and Jake Busey, to the crème de le crème – D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz as the Gecko brothers. How they could find the right combo to reenact those roles and yet improve upon them is a casting miracle. Cotrona especially in his voice is an audio double for George Clooney, and both brothers are so believable.
The El Rey series does flawlessly what so many shows made from movies can’t do, it successfully blends in the new details of the story. The prequels were not perfect but they added bits and mythology to the tale, and along with more action, and more horror, the world-building is intact. Now in its second season, and in completely open territory, “From Dusk till Dawn” is one of the best genre series on television, check it out.