From Dusk Till Dawn
from dusk till dawn | robert rodriguez | quentin tarantino | harvey keitel | george clooney | juliette lewis | vampire | vampires | vacation | action | crime | united states | mexico | ernest liu | salma hayek | cheech marin | danny trejo | tom savini | fred williamson
Film: From Dusk Till Dawn
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Harvey Keitel, George Clooney and Juliette Lewis
Now this is an interesting film for me, because I recall watching this on the movie channels growing quite a bit. It always seemed to be on. The crazy thing though is I had no idea who Quentin Tarantino was until a bit after and some of the other actors I really didn’t know either. To get into this, the synopsis is two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in a truck stop populated by vampires with chaotic results.
We start this film with Pete Bottoms (John Hawkes) who is working at liquor store. He has a chat with Earl McGraw (Michael Parks), who is a Texas Ranger. They go back and forth until the subject turns to two criminals are on the loose. Earl uses the bathroom and we see that these criminals are there. They’re brothers Seth (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Tarantino). They’re upset with Pete and just want him to get rid of Earl so they can leave. Richard claims that Pete is tipping off Earl so a gunfight ensues. In the end it leaves Pete and Earl dead with the liquor store up in flames. Seth is irate with Richard as they flee.
The two of them hold up in a cheap motel and we see that they have a hostage. She is told the rules of how to survive as Seth leaves to scope out their path to the border. The film then shifts to a family that is on vacation. Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) is a former priest who is having a crisis of faith after his wife passed away. With him are his daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and son Scott (Ernest Liu). This family ends up at the same motel.
When Seth returns to the room, he finds that Richard has done something to their hostage. This angers him and they have to come up with a plan to get over the border. This leads them to taking the Fuller family hostage. We see that Richard has some mental issues as he thinks Kate asks a pretty vulgar request.
They make it across the border and end up at a bar called the Titty Twister. It has a rough crowd and at first Razor Charlie (Danny Trejo) won’t serve them. Jacob diffuses the situation when he proves he has a trucker’s license and they’re allowed to stay. Their attention is adverted when Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) entices everyone with a seductive dance. The night takes a turn when she and the others that work there reveal what they really are. This becomes a nightmare they’ll never forget.
As I kind of alluded to, I used to watch this one all the time and I still really enjoy it. It has such an interesting set up for sure. If you had no idea what this film was about, you really get a Tarantino film for the first part of it. It is a crime film where you have Seth who is in charge and is trying to get them across the border. On to the other side you have the psychopath Richard who is sensitive if he is questioned. There is an even more interesting dynamic when you consider how Jacob interacts with Seth. He actually has the gull to call him out, but Seth sees he’s right. It just this hardened criminal can be questioned by a former priest. Seth knows that Jacob is right in what he is saying so that really helps.
The film takes that dark tonal shift at the Titty Twister, which I also really that aspect. I do have to say that some of the characters are way over the top, like Sex Machine (Tom Savini) who has a gun on his groin. He wouldn’t be able to shoot it, but that’s the comedy of the film. I will be honest; it does hurt my rating a bit as it does bring down the realism.
The vampire part of the film I really like as well. I do find it interesting that there are a few different looks to them. Santanico looks very similar to a snake when she turns, which is interesting as that is what she is dancing with. Others look quite monstrous and you get even more of that from the ones that show up later in the film as well, which are more like bats. It is almost like vampires from all over convene here at night to feed.
That brings me to the pacing of the film, which I think is great. I never find myself bored here. There’s a great way of introducing the characters that just feels natural and really getting to know them. Even though you know the Gecko brothers are criminals, you worry about them getting over the border. We should be like Scott and want them to get caught, but there’s a charisma that makes you question yourself. That is an interesting duality to the film for sure. There is never a lull in the film and I love the reveal at the end of the film. I remember the first time seeing it and just thinking it was great.
To move this next to the acting, which is great and I’d say that can really carry the movie. I’m not sure if Clooney ever did horror before or after this, but he is so charismatic that I feel like he is Seth. There is something about him even when he is doing bad things that I had trouble hating him. Tarantino is also great in this film. I love that we get a glimpse of what he thinks he’s seeing and it comes off that he’s crazy. I thought it worked well. Keitel is really good as normal. Lewis was solid. Hayek was gorgeous and just had my jaw on the floor every time I see her dance. It was fun to see cameos from Cheech Marin, Trejo, Savini, Fred Williamson, John Saxon, Kelly Preston and Hawkes. The cast all really turned in a great performance across the board.
That moves me next to the effects of the film. This film was done by KNB, which when I saw that it made since. I think the blood and gore in this film looks really good. It is done practical so that makes a lot of sense. There is some CGI that works in this as well. When you see people changing into vampires, which was fine. There was some CGI that wasn’t so good. Some of the flames we see look fake and not all of the looks of the vampires work for me either. I would say that overall it is more positive than negative. The look of how the film is shot is really good as well.
The last thing to cover is the music in the film. I really just want to give a shout out to the mariachi band that is playing, because even though it isn’t my type of music, they do a really good job. I do have to say it is a bit over the top, cheesy when they reveal themselves to be vampires and what they’re using for instruments, but I digress.
Now with that said, I still really enjoy this film and it does hold up for me. I love how we get a Tarantino/crime film to start out and it changes into a vampire film in the second half. It just moves so seamlessly. I think that the pacing really helps it there as the film never gets bored and kept me entertained. Not all of the comedy works, but it doesn’t ruin the film. Acting really is good here as well and I would have to also say that most of the effects are too. There is some CGI and looks to the vampires that I wasn’t high on. The music I think fits for what they needed as well. With that said I think this is a really good film and would highly recommend it, even if you’re not a horror fan. I will warn you though, it is pretty bloody.
My Rating: 9 out of 10