Friday, February 8, 2013
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Oh man, if only this beauty had been made two years earlier, it would be a natural for the My Favorite Era series! If 2007's Grindhouse was considered the ultimate pairing of the twin titans that are Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk Till Dawn is the blueprint for it, and in my opinion it's about ten times better.
George Clooney and Tarantino are Seth and Richie Gecko, two wanted fugitives who want to make it across the border from Texas to Mexico. After a virtuoso opening sequence in which they end up torching a liquor store, they eventually end up abducting former preacher Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and his two kids, one of whom is played by Juliette Lewis.
They make it across but end up in hot water when the bar they decide to spend a few hours at while waiting to get picked up turns out to be chock full of vampires. Words cannot describe how wonderfully this little twist works but I will try.
From Dusk Till Dawn is a fantastic blending of two of the best indie directors of the 90's. Tarantino's dynamic script melds with Rodriguez's enthusiastic shooting style quite well as the first forty five minutes play out like a Reservoir Dogs type crime flick. As soon as they get to the bar though, (wonderfully named The Titty Twister) we are thrown headlong into Robert Rodriguez territory as Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo show up (Cheech has three roles here and is just awesome in all three) and best of all, Salma Hayek puts in a brief yet memorable turn as the sultry queen of the vampires.
The bar is also full of great horror/exploitation film cameos as Tom Savini and Fred Williamson have fairly large supporting roles and KNB head honcho Greg Nicotero has a small role as a bar patron. The mayhem begins about an hour in as the bar employees reveal their true vampiric nature and the film turns into a great survival horror film as the our heroes try to survive the night.
Acting is damn good all around with Clooney and Keitel doing the best. Lewis is fine (one of the few times I've actually enjoyed her in a movie) and Savini and Williamson make for a funny duo. I especially love that from out of nowhere, Savini gets a kung-fu sequence where he takes on some vampires. Salma is also good, though truthfully all she has to do is dance a little and look sexy. Not exactly a challenge for her.
On the technical side, the f/x are great with some great KNB stuff. I think my favorite is the giant rat-thing Savini turns into after he;ls bitten and his head is ripped off. I also love the sound mix which is quite nicely detailed for a low budget flick.
From Dusk Till Dawn is a fast, funny, gory thrill that still works today. I recommend tracking down the two disc DVD set from 2000, it's got a great set of extras.