From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn ★★★½

Geoff T's Hoop-Tober 7.0 Challenge
Rodriguez Double Bill #1
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

I’m aware that Halloween is over, but I’d rather finish what I started, no matter how late.

The 1990s saw a heavily renewed interest in vampire-related media, and one of the films resulting from that was From Dusk Till Dawn, directed by Robert Rodriguez and scripted by (and starring) Quentin Tarantino. As Grindhouse demonstrated, those two make for a good collaboration.

Seth and Richard Gecko are a couple of fugitive brothers on the run across the Texas frontier, while local authorities pursue them for a violent bank robbery they committed. Hoping to escape across the border to Mexico, they hijack a minivan owned by preacher Jacob Fuller, who along with this daughter Katherine and son Scott are taken along for the side. All hell breaks loose when the Geckos and Fullers stop at the Titty Twister in Mexico, which turns out to be a hive of vampires with an appetite for flesh of whom Seth, Jacob, and other others must survive until dawn.

As far as the likability factor is concerned, the Geckos are a problematic bunch, seeing as they’re both ruthless fugitives who often kill without remorse. As difficult as he is to sympathise with however, George Clooney does a fine job in the role of Seth, and his character does make some attempt at redemption towards the end. That’s more than can be said for his brother, who generally comes off as repulsive and idiotic (Quentin’s overly-eccentric performance doesn’t help much).

One things for sure however that Rodriguez assembled a hell of a cast for this one, with bit-parts from B-movie names like Michael Parks and John Saxon, to Salma Heyek and Danny Trejo as blood-suckers, and don’t forget the dynamic duo that is Sex Machine and Frost, played by Tom Savini and Fred Williamson respectively. However, I really like Harvey Keitel in this, whose role as a down-to-earth preacher (who doubts his faith) makes a change from the tough gangsters he tends to play, and of course a young Juliette Lewis is great to see.

It’s fair to say that this is also a film of two vastly different halves. The first basically plays out like a gritty but darkly-humorous crime-thriller/road movie with various Tarantino-isms (deadpan remarks, frequent profanity and violence) and some good sights of the Texas desert. However, it’s the second half in Mexico where Rodriguez really gains his creative hand, as the movie suddenly transforms into a bloody vamp slaughter-fest that embraces its campy nature with heaps of gore and practical efforts work (along with some rather primitive CG) from the guys at KNB.

It’s definitely not as good as I remember overall, but it still manages to be quite a fun time. The sudden shift in tone for example is admittedly jarring and problematic, but it makes up for that with plenty of blood, guts and mayhem, along with some quotable dialogue. Just switch your brain off and enjoy the ride I say.

7/10

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