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 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.