Spoilers took the wrong turn at Albuquerque.
This feels like I’m cheating. I wanted a horror film for the last week of October, but I was missing a good kickass action film. There were a few choices, but this feature is one that I thought deserved a new watch. This one’s in my list of guilty pleasure films. You get action, violence, gore, horror and all within a crossover of both movie universes of Rodriguez and Tarantino.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) was directed by Robert Rodriguez. The screenplay was written by Quentin Tarantino based on a story by Robert Kurtzman. The Gecko brothers, Seth (George Clooney) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino) are on the run after holding up a bank and leaving a ton of corpses in their wake. To pass the Mexican border, they kidnap a family riding on a motorhome. Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his kids Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott (Ernest Liu) are forced to help at gunpoint, with their captors claiming they will let them go after meeting their contact across border. The meeting point is a infamous strip bar called Titty Twister.
The Gecko brothers are quite memorable. Seth is supposedly the level-headed one, but that’s only because Richie is a complete basketcase. Tarantino plays Richie as a complete nutcase and a very creepy sexual predator. You can insert your favorite joke here. Even Tarantino’s own foot fetish has been thrown into the mix (not that he ever leaves it out of his films but this is Rodriguez’ feature). On the other hand, Seth does seem to make smarter choices than his brother, that is until he’s forced to switch gears whenever Richie has gone ahead and killed their last hostage.
The Fullers on the other hand, are a lot less interesting. Yes, Jacob is a former priest and Keitel does try to press a little agency to his character, but once we hit the strip bar there are more colorful characters with a lot less screen time that make a bigger impression. That also leaves both kids, Scott and Kate, with little to do. To be fair, Juliette Lewis’ Kate does have some short-lived moments but she’s not given a lot to work with.
Salma Hayek is one of the most unforgettable as the vampire queen herself, Santanico Pandemonium. Payed reverence, filmed from up high and always standing above her victims until the time she gets finished, she’s evil incarnate and power in the flesh. Yes, it’s a highly sexualized role but she’s the dominating force rather than the object to be dominated. She doesn’t get much screen time, but with a name and a presence like that, she’s definitely memorable.
Cheech Marin plays triple duty as both a customs officer, an announcer at the bar and the Gecko brother’s contact, Carlos, who is supposed to get them to a sanctuary for criminal runaways. Other memorable side characters are bartender Razor Charlie (Danny “Machete” Trejo), cigar-smoking bad-ass Frost (Fred Williamson) and Sex Machine (Tom Savini). Even the house band is hard to forget, played by actual band Tito & Tarantula.
I realize that I haven’t discussed much of the plot. Let’s get something straight, as soon as we get to the strip bar we’re just waiting for the fangs to come out. Yes, it’s been a violent anti-hero crime film just up till here. The horror comes out the moment that blood pours and the vampires make themselves known. The CGI gets a little dated here, and the gore goes from occasional to rampant as the bloodbath begins.
Shamefully recommended with some remorse for fans of both horror and action genres. Yes, it goes from a violent crime spree to a violent gory mess. The plot knows it’s going for flashy, loud and bloody action so it starts just as the anti-hero protagonists are already on the run. It knows exactly what it is, a pulpy fantastic over-the-top violent crime-horror with some comedy elements. You can also spot several hints to other films from both Rodriguez and Tarantino, which ties both universes together. More than worth a watch for fans of both filmmakers and over-the-top action and horror as long as you don’t mind CGI effects that have become a little dated.
That will do for now.