From Dusk Till Dawn
Don't bring a gun to a vampire fight
While the technique of “misdirection” is mostly associated with magic, it's nothing new in the world of horror. Many horror movies portray themselves in a certain way and then pull the rug out from under us in an effort to create shock and surprise. Some movies, such as The House Of The Devil, let you know that the big surprise is going to happen and make you wait. This can lead to a very boring watch that no payoff can make up for. The key to any good movie is to have a completely enjoyable start to finish. It sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised how many movies make you sit through an hour of nothing just for a half hour of action. Of course, when you have a movie written by Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds) and directed by Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Machete), you don't have to worry about a lack of action.
From Dusk Till Dawn is a 1996 horror action movie starring George Clooney (The Ides of March, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as Seth Gecko and Quentin Tarantino as his brother Richie. Seth and Richie are professional thieves that have left a swath of destruction across Texas after a bank robbery. They hold up in a hotel near the border with a bank teller they took as a hostage. While Seth goes to get food, Richie, a convicted sex offender, rapes and murders the hostage. When Seth returns, he is infuriated, stating that he is a thief not a rapist. Needing new hostages, Seth and Richie kidnap a family driving an RV: Jacob (Harvey Keitel, Pulp Fiction, Bad Lieutenant), a former pastor with a crisis of faith, his teenage daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), and his adopted son Scott. Seth makes a deal with Jacob that if he can get them across the border safely, he promises not to harm them. He also promises to keep Richie from doing anything to Kate. After a close call, they make it across the border and Seth has Jacob drive to the rendevous point, a bar called The Titty Twister, where they are to meet their partners. As they enter the bar, they are briefly stopped by a worker named Chet Pussy (Cheech Marin, Up In Smoke, Nice Dreams), but Seth and Richie beat him down. Inside, Seth and Richie drink heavily an enjoy a performance by the main dancer, Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek, Desperado, Four Rooms). After the dance, Chet returns and confronts the Gecko brothers. Richie is stabbed in the hand and Santanico, excited by the blood, turns into a vampire and bites him. Suddenly, all the stirppers and workers at the bar turn into vampires, attacking the patrons. Joined by a biker named Sex Machine (Tom Savini, Machete, Dawn Of The Dead) and a Vietnam veteran named Frost (Fred Williamson, Black Caesar, former Oakland Raider) Richie and the slain patrons begin turning into the vampires and the group is forced to kill them. Sex Machine is bitten who, in turn, bites Frost and Jacob. After hearing the sound of bats flapping outside, the bar is filled with more vampires. Seth, Kate, Scott, and Jacob retreat to a back room where they find all the supplies from various trucks that have stopped at the bar over the year. They arm themselves with weapons including condoms filled with holy water, a crossbow, and a drill. With Jacob about to turn into a vampire, will Seth, Kate, and Scott be able to survive?
The only good vampire is a dead vampire
I can't remember the last time I had fun watching a movie from start to finish. The first half of the movie plays out like a crime action movie while the second half goes for a completely over-the-top horror movie. The great thing is, if either half of the movie continued in it's original direction, I still would have enjoyed it. Credit goes in many directions. It's no secret that Quentin Tarantino can create interesting characters as we've seen in many of his other films. The dialogue is quick and snappy while not getting bogged down in words for the sake of using words like in Tarantino's “Death Proof”. Robert Rodriguez is no stranger to great action movies and is able to mix in horror very well, using creative angles and good wide shots to capture the action. If you enjoy references to other movies, keep your eyes peeled for a few nods to both Tarantino's and Rodriguez's work throughout. Admittedly, the horror is ridiculous, but in the fun way, never taking itself too seriously. There are a few scares, but it's never the movie's intention to be too scary. More focus is given on the action and genuinely funny humor. The vampires look good and there is plenty of blood and violence to keep things exciting. The movie tries to keep the vampire mythos from straying from the path, even having a discussion of what can actually kill them. There was one part where Sex Machine gets his head pulled off, only to have his body grow a new one and become some sort of giant rat vampire monster. I'm not sure where they were going with this idea other than to have a big monster. Didn't really make sense, but at least it looked cool.
The character of Seth Gecko is brutal, but oddly charming, forcing the audience to cheer for him despite being a murderer. It certainly helps that George Clooney is so good in the role. It's strange that he hasn't been in more villainous roles, because he is flat-out perfect as Seth Gecko. Quentin Tarantino is his usual hammy self as Richie which is a mixture of a good and bad. It is a little weird that he keeps playing rapists, though. Harvey Keitel is great as the southern pastor Jacob, making you completely forget that he's a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. Jacob's crisis of faith is quite believable as Keitel plays him with a quiet exhaustion, beaten down by an act of God that has broken his beliefs. The movie is full of fun smaller parts for well-known actors as Salma Hayek, Tom Savini, Danny Trejo (Machete, Con Air), and Cheech Marin in three separate roles.
Way better looking than Nosferatu
From Dusk Till Dawn manages to do so many things right that I find myself hard-pressed to find many flaws with it. It's a little long and there are a few scenes even too ridiculous for a movie such as this. What starts out as a fun action crime movie becomes an equally fun horror comedy. Tarantino's screenplay flow well, especially considering how wordy he tends to get. The movie has good, believable characters as well as fun, ridiculous characters in the bar. Rodriguez does a good job capturing the action with lots of bloody violence and good-looking vampires. George Clooney is great as Seth and should really play more villains in the future. Harvey Keitel is equally as good as the broken-down Jacob. If you can't decide on whether to watch an action movie, a crime thriller, or a horror movies, you should watch From Dusk Till Dawn because it is all those things and more.