After Underworld 1-5 already showed a decent amount of blood shed between vampires, werewolves, and humans, the From Dusk Till Dawn movies deliver even more gore for our Halloween week.
From Dusk Till Dawn
(USA 1996, director: Robert Rodriguez)
After a violent bank heist, the Gecko brothers try to cross the border of Mexico with the Fuller family as hostages, only to find that the trucker bar where they’re to meet their partner is full of vampires.
The collaboration of special effects guru Robert Kurtzman as storywriter, Quentin Tarantino as screenplay writer, and Robert Rodriguez as director is a team made in horror/thriller/action heaven. It’s telling that after all these years, the movie has lost none of its originality and fun. Even if everyone knows that it’s part kidnapping thriller and part vampire horror action, it’s so re-watchable like few movies. The reason for this is the script with memorable one-liners and characters one cares about, even if they’re psychopathic and selfish. Dialogues never drag on, there aren’t any boring scenes, as everything is somehow connected, like the pastor’s background. Sure, it’s not the deepest characterization and the story is rather simplistic, but unlike so many horror or thriller movies that spend too much time on exposition and don’t deliver in the action and gore department, this is a perfect example of how it’s done. Having Harvey Keitel and George Clooney play their roles perfectly adds to the realism, although there are enough funny moments to make sure the audience knows that it’s a self-aware horror/thriller movie.
The amount of blood and gore is high, and while the first part has some uncomfortable (intentional) unfunny scenes, the second half is full of splatter effects and gruesome vampire masks. There are a few other surprises, like the killing methods of the heroes, or how some vampires turn into other monsters, making this one of the coolest vampire movies in movie history if one doesn’t take the genre too seriously. It’s certainly not for the squeamish when heads and limbs fly around and bodies explode into a thousand pieces, but with a great soundtrack (that would make the band Tito and Tarantula quite popular), this is what a movie should be like: perfect entertainment.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money
(USA 1999, director: Scott Spiegel)
A group of criminals wants to rob a bank, but as one makes a quick stop at the vampire bar Titty Twister after his car breaks down, things and people turn out differently than planned.
Compared to the original, this is a completely different experience, as the the vampire bar is only shortly shown and Danny Trejo makes a guest appearance as the barman. Of course it takes place in Texas and the bank heist idea could also be seen as a connecting theme. However, characters are unlikable and forgettable, dialogues are dull, even if the script has a few almost-Tarantino like conversations about pop culture (or in this case porno movies). So it’s nowhere near as tongue-in-cheek or witty as the original, lacking suspense and the change in genres that made the predecessor so cool.
But if one tries to watch the movie without any expectations, it’s actually a very entertaining schlock movie with a surprising amount of blood and gore. The bat creature effects are quite cheap and the make-up effects aren’t the best, but this is to be expected with a low budget flick. What counts is that there’s enough action with shoot-outs, staking, ripping out throats, and other disgusting stuff that makes an R-Rated gory vampire horror movie enjoyable to watch. There are way worse sequels in the horror genre to sit through, and at least this one is fast-paced and delivers on the splatter effects, even if one doesn’t care about any of the characters or the plot.
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter
(USA 1999, director: P.J. Pesce)
In the early 1900’s Mexico, an outlaw kidnaps the hangman’s daughter and seeks shelter in an isolated inn/brothel where they also meet American author Ambrose Bierce and a newly married couple who soon find out that its proprietors are vampires.
Mixing Western action and vampire monster horror is quite original and it’s obvious that the first movie serves as inspiration, especially with the finale that is as crazy as it’s disgusting and over-the-top bloody with a rocking soundtrack. Compared to the second movie, there are actually some memorable characters, including American author Ambrose Bierce and two Bible-promoting people. The only problem is that they’re again quite unlikable. Even the growing love relationship between the egocentric hero and the hangman’s daughter simply doesn’t work. Despite a few bloody shoot-outs and knife fights, the first half of the movie isn’t something one wants to go through again.
Fortunately, when the horror kicks in, the movie almost reaches the same highs as in the finale of the original. One might not really care about the characters, but the ensuing carnage with many victims who are bitten and vampires who are decapitated and staked in original ways pays off. Without taking too much away, the ending also fits in the mythology the first movie hinted at. If more of this creativity and also fast pacing would have been shown before, this would have been a winner.
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