Monday, April 1, 2013

Movie #184: From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn is a vampire movie directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel, Ernest Liu and Quentin Tarantino (who also wrote the screenplay).

Seth and Richie Gecko (Clooney and Tarantino, respectively) are armed robbers and killers trying like hell to get across the border to Mexico, away from the police. But they've killed so many people that the whole southwest is looking for them, so they wind up jacking an RV along with the Fuller family. Jacob Fuller (Keitel) is a preacher who has lost his faith after the death of his wife, and he's taking his kids (Kate and Scott; Lewis and Liu, respectively) on a cross-country trip.

Now, Seth is professional, if violent. Richie, on the other hand, is a hot mess. He's utterly psycho, and a rapist to boot. Jacob recognizes what he is, and Seth, while he loves his brother, is obviously in pain over how horrible the dude actually is. The group of them makes it over the border to Mexico and winds up at the Titty Twister, a rowdy biker/trucker bar with nekkid dancers, a truly slimy barker at the door (Cheech Marin, in one of three roles in this movie), a friendly bartender (Danny Trejo), and a creepy if truly sexy dancer (Salma Hayek).

In the midst of a barfight in which Richie's already-wounded hand starts bleeding like crazy, Hayek flips out and grows fangs. And then the rest of the bar employees do likewise, and holy shit, we're in the midst of vampire freakout. When the dust settles, Richie is dead. Only Seth, the Fullers, a crazy Nam vet named Frost (Fred Williamson) and a biker named Sex Machine (Tom Savini) remain alive... but they still have to make it to dawn in order to have any hope of living.

The first hour of the movie has some horrific elements, but nothing supernatural and nothing that really say "horror movie" rather than "Tarantino flick." The Gecko brothers shoot people, and Richie does something horrible to their hostage (we never see what, exactly but it's obvious that he's raped and shot her). This gives us time to learn about the characters before the vampires come out, and that's effective. There are also some really cool shots with doorways, and, of course, the closing shot where we see that the Titty Twister is actually a fucking step-temple.

All in all, like Fright Night, it's a vampire movie that squarely paints vampires as monsters, and gives us characters with interesting backstories and personal histories. Like a lot of Rodriguez films, it fails the Bechdel nice and hard (the only non-victim character is Kate, and she loses her family), but you can't have everything.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Fugitive