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 Till Dawn: the series Ep2

“Got your balls on?”

“Screwed on tight.”

The Gecko brothers are casually stopped and sitting out in the open discussing Mexican food. The interaction is poorly acted and stiff. It’s also a flashback to right before their last bank robbery. In the present, Freddie Gonzales is alerting the other Marshalls about the altercation at the Liquor store with the Gecko brothers. 

Richie has a hole through is hand and is acting increasingly irrational. Richie is also not pleased that Seth lost his knife (Earl picked it up and it got left behind). The knife had an eye drawn on it. Richie drew eyes on the two female hostages from the liquor store… and also, there’s another hostage in the trunk. A female bank employee. 

All women have been hostages or neglected housewives so far. I noticed.

Most of this episode takes place in flashbacks to the bank robbery. The woman in the truck is a hard worker and a mother of two who keeps her daughters cell phone in her coat a secret when the Geckos collect electronics, she sticks up for her coworkers and she tries to get Richie to turn against Seth, They try to break into the bank vault: no one has the code, Richie can’t crack it (because of the hypersexualized Latina in his head) and Seth ends up drilling his way in. The police arrive and Richie grabs the woman and goes for the killshot on every arriving LEO Seth opts for blowing up the cars. 

In the present the woman kicks in the trunk and Richie nearly runs them off the road.

Seth calls Carlos who says he’s “working.” Carlos intercepts Kyle who is going to pick up his girlfriend Katie (the daughter of guest star Robert Patrick’s character). Katie is being “kidnapped” by her father who has lost his grip since the death of their mother along with her adopted brother. But Carlos goes all snake eyes and fanged and sucks out Kyle’s essence. That scene was particularly cool. Especially when his ungloved hand starts smoking in the sun. Then Carlos (shapeshifted as Kyle) continues on to pick up Katie and ends up fist fighting Robert Patrick. It’s a weird world when Fez can take down the T-1000. 

Out in the middle of the desert, Richie draws an eye with the blood of a dead dog. He has a rare moment of realization that maybe something is going wrong with himself. Freddie is rewatching the video tape (that his wife takes for neglecting his family) and sees the bunny eared phone case, he surmises that it’s her daughter’s phone and gives a call. The Gecko brothers hear it ring from the trunk and Seth answers and showboats a little bit. Which is ridiculous, he’s the clever one, right? He knows they can trace phone calls. Freddie arrives that the scene. The Geckos are long gone but he finds the dog blood eyeball.

The scenes with Wilmer Valderrama were the best. Unfortunately there weren’t many. Some scenes were incredibly stiff. I’m always excited to see Robert Patrick doing stuff. Lot’s of things happen out of chronology, leaving me to be like “Why are we having a picnic right after we killed people?” But it’s pretty tight Robert Rodriguez is making this work so far.

From Dusk Till Dawn- episode 1

This is one of those things that I heard about and was originally baffled about it. From Dusk Til Dawn is great source material. But expanding one film into nearly 13 hours? Seems excessive.

But the first episode lends depth to characters; emotional motivation for detectives on the trail of the Gecko brothers, Richie’s “mental illness as supernatural power” or “supernatural power that presents itself as mental illness”, Seth protectiveness over Richie.

The first episode takes place almost entirely at a liquor store (which I had thought was a gas station… whatever) where Richie takes hostages while Seth tries to make arrangements with a drug lord (“Carlos” played by Wilmer Valderrama). DJ Cotrona does an awesome George Clooney impression throughout the episode. Cotrona does a great job the swagger is dead on Clooney without being overdone. Zane Holtz interpretation of Tarantino’s character, Richie Gecko, seemed slightly more camp to me. The first 10 minutes is stretched into 45, but aside from digging deeper, there isn’t too many liberties taken. Richie takes hostages and has an itchy trigger finger, and quickly starts hallucinating serpentine vampire girls.

Don Johnson plays Earl McGraw a Texas Rangers after the Gecko brothers, along with partner Freddie Gonzales (Jesse Garcia). The length of time available allows us into their mindset (tenacious law enforcement officers) by exploring into their background like in scenes of Freddie asking McGraw to be his young daughter’s godfather. McGraw discussing how much of his daughter’s life that he missed while on the job. McGraw telling Freddie to get the Geckos if he has to follow them to the gates of Hell. It’s still stereotypical, but it’s good enough. 

The quicker you get over it and remember that this is Robert Rodriguez’s project which translates into “this is very good looking camp” the easier it will be to enjoy. 

Certainly worth a look, especially for fans of the source material.

There are some overused tropes the “mental illness/supernatural power” thing, the hyper-sexualized Latina, tenacious LEO with a personal vendetta. 

The (original) film was released in 1996. I’m not entirely sure when this takes place. There were also 2 knock off sequels and the making of documentary Full Tilt Boogie spawned from that flick, do we need 13 episodes of it? It remains to be seen.