31 Horrifying Days- Day 11: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

I’ve been watching and reviewing the new El Rey series, so I decided it was time for a refresher of the original incarnation.

The film is grittier, on TV Zane Holtz and DJ Cotrona never beak a sweat even in their suitcoats in the desert heat. Clooney looks appropriately greasy, there’s nudity, creative cussing and more carnage. The movie, which is 1/2 criminal caper and then abruptly turns into a vampire flick; progresses quickly in comparison.

Which makes sense, characters get well fleshed out. We see why Jacob’s faith is shaken, we see why Kate is willing to do whiskey shots with an ex-con who has them hostage. Santanica becomes a sympathetic character. In the film version she’s one of those spicy latina cliches and sticks her foot in Tarantino’s mouth.

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In the series she needs Richie, in the film? She just chomps him. We meet Seth’s wife, where in the film she’s just an off handed comment. The cops who are cannon fodder in the flick get motivation, background and emotion in the series.

But there’s one character who doesn’t: Frost. But they have the same archetype. Big black dudes who are former military. But the film’s Frost (played by Fred Williamson, who has been making movies since the early 70s, and has quite a few upcoming) is integral to the longevity of the protagonists, he’s big as a house, but compared to war he thinks killing some vampires isn’t much trouble, he starts telling grisly a tale of serving in ‘Nam when Sex Machine goes vamp and takes a bite. but he fights until the end. The series’ Frost, who they find hiding in the supply room served in the Middle East and the vampires are giving him flashbacks. Very different reactions. He overcomes his anxiety just in time to fulfill the trope and sacrifice himself for all the white people. It’s ridiculous.

And Rodriguez has created a sensibly diverse cast for the series other than that major folly.

Also, Sex Machine isn’t in the series and instead Jake Busey plays Professor Aiden Tanner which is the direct opposite.

What I like better about the film? why do vampires have to be sympathetic, anyway? I like them as the are here, inexplicable monsters with insatiable thirst. It’s a mess of special effects, but it holds up well for being 18 years old, the vampires morphing into huge rats, faces in their stomachs, exploding pustules.

But is it scary? Nope. A wild ride at Titty Twisters, but not much in terms of a fear factor.

4.25/5

From Dusk Til Dawn- Episode 8

“You made me want you like a dog.” -Richie

The episode begins with (shocker) a flashback. But this time it’s back to the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors. Carlos coming to the New World.

Seth is about to kill Texas Ranger Freddie, who has been bitten, Seth worries that he’s about to turn, but Robert Patrick talks him out of it. With a gun. Scott is in the tunnels. And Richie is with Santanica Pandemonium. 

Freddie and Carlos’s swordfight is pretty epic. It finishes with Carlos pouring salt in Freddie’s wounds and taking a big bite. But Freddie has an ancient bloodline and he won’t change.

We get Santanico’s backstory. She;s vicious, but it’s because she’s cursed.

Kate’s dad almost comes clean to her about her mother’s demonic possession as they go deeper into the tunnels and hit a “roadblock with a deathstick” man with a shotgun who’s been in the tunnels for sometime holed up in a supply room (the Sergeant. Kate, her dad, the professor, and Seth load up on weapons and get ready.

5 centuries ago, Carlos feed Santanico from her chains in the temple and became her servant. He worships her. We see how he was changed into the serpentine vampire and then took down his fellow explorers. He cries for himself and the monster he has become. But this is what he wanted: a fountain of youth, power, eternal life.

Scott got turned. He is informing on Santanico for Carlos. He looks like one of those Buffy style vamps.

The Sergeant tell them that the temple messes with their heads, that he thought he was in Falluja. He’s never going back out there. The rest do. Kate envisions her mother committing suicide right before she is taken. She’s about to be stabbed when the others find her.Team Human is quite outmatched when the Sergeant busts in and sacrifices himself.

Richie is on death’s door and Santanico is compelling him to be turned. As the episode ends: she sinks in her fangs.

The intensity was ramped up in this episode. Of course that came with some tropes. Only black man in the horror show dies almost immediately. Combat veteran on TV? immediately means he has PTSD. STOP. Stop it.

Other than that? Good shit. Loving the addition of Jake Busey

From Dusk Til Dawn: the series Episodes 3, 4 + 5

There 3rd episode takes place nearly entirely in room 106 of the Dew Drop Inn. The 4th in room 207. And the fifth follows the Gecko brothers and hostages as they try to make it into Mexico and ultimately reach Titty Twisters.

Episode 3- Monica is still hostage. Seth goes out to Kahuna Burger and leaves Richie alone with Monica. For a while they hit it off. But the Richie starts calling her “Gordita” and she opens up about role playing with her husband. Richie tells her how he can see things and he snuggles up with her. Which is still creepy. But he starts hallucinating and Monica pulls the gun that Seth left Richie with. A bold move. But it turns out that the gun wasn’t loaded (which speaks volumes about what Seth really thinks of Richie)

While out at Kahuna Burger: Seth meets up with his ex-wife. He tells her that they’re taking off for Mexico and tried to pay her off with 4 million dollars for her to just go start a new life. She tells him plainly that she waited for him. Not for his money, for him. We also get some details, she helped him plan the bank job… and she is very suspicious of Richie. She even covertly had a psychiatrist profile Richie while Seth was in jail. Seth doesn’t take this well and he sends her away. She comes back with a vengeance and starts smashing up the camaro he’s driving. He tells her off, she leaves again and then when he goes to pay for his food he drops a pocket full of bullets on the counter and attracts the attention of a police officer.

Seth’s wife takes the officer hostage and clears out the burger joint. Seth heads back to the motel and finds Monica dead. Not just killed, but carved up with her eyes removed. He grabs Richie and yells “This is not who we are. This is not who you are.” But clearly it is who Richie is. And Richie actually saw things about Monica, so this is getting more supernatural elements.

The Fullers’ Winnebago acts up and Jacob ends up in a bar… and in a bottle. Kate finds evidence that her father was culpable in the death of her mother. Marshall Freddie also gets some tips that Richie is responsible for a string of murders.

Episode 4- We flash back to Freddies first assignment as a Texas Ranger. He and Earl bust in on two bad dudes and a young woman. Earl shoots one of the men in the neck and blood spurts out everywhere. Freddie starts screaming and ends up throwing up and questioning becoming a Ranger. He is subsequently haunted ab “bleeding neck man” for the rest of the episode,

The fallout from Monica’s death and being spotted at Kahuna Burger means the Gecko brothers have to get out of town faster. They spot the Fullers and decide that they can hide in the RV. They take the family hostage. Richie goes to get Katie from  the pool, she’s been reading up on the car accident that killed her mother. She finds that her father wasn’t drunk, but that there was no issue with the breaks as he originally stated. There are flashbacks showing him “healing” their mother. Richie envisions her bleeding out into the pool. He i kind to Katie and says that he knows that she’s hurting. He tells her that he sees things. Growing up very religious, Katie believes that he is he is touched by God. But inevitably, he creeps her out.

Freddie Gonzales arrives on scene at Kahuna Burger and shows Seth’s wife photos of murder victims. He plays up that Richie is dangerous, maybe even for Seth. So she tells him that they stopped at a local motel and that he’s driving a smashed up black Camaro. Freddie arrives at the Dew Drop in and goes looking for the Geckos, met with snarky attitudes from the employees. Once he does find Seth, the ensuing melee results in the death of two cops.

Episode 5- Jacob Fuller, is remembering his wife’s death. She grabbed the wheel and ran them off of the road. What he has healing her from is pretty mysterious, but it appears to be some sort of possession. Richie starts imagining that Jacob is a lizard man and that Scott has a lizard tail. Katie seems left out of any of these hallucinations.I’m not sure exactly why. 

They end up at Boarder Patrol and things go from bad to worse. Scott pulls a gun on Richie, the ensuing argument leads Jacob to bumping into the car in front of him and leading to him knocking out the hipster driver and taking him hostage. Richie’s hallucinations involving Santanico Pandemonium get more intense. 

Carlos and Seth have been at odds after all the commotion and attention. Carlos infiltrates the Boarder Patrol barracks and feeds on an officer, taking on his form. This was done through a series of time and perspective shifts and it was very interesting. I was wondering why he was telling Freddie to holster his weapon. After that intervention they make it to Titty Twisters. 

What did I think? The additional details are thus far making the story more confusing than clear.from Jacob exorcising his wife, Richie seeing Scott with a lizard tail, the Marshalls thinking that Richie is a hitman for the blood cult/cartel… it’s a lot.Women still seemingly have no motivations of their own. The men do all the stuff while the women dote …or die. Jacob knocking out the other driver and Seth nodding “Old Testament.” was awesome. That was probably my favorite moment. There’s a lot here that’s being done more tamely than in the movie. It’s not a complaint but I am wondering why Rodriguez decided to do that. Carlos being out in broad daylight flies in the face of “How Vampires Work 101”