Mexican Stake-Off: From Dusk Till Dawn
From Dusk Till Dawn is a cult classic completely deserving of the title and really underrated. The mainstream audience generally liked the first half of the movie, but once they get to the bar and the movie completely changes its style, tone and pace most people stop liking it. The main reason is not that they wouldn’t like the two parts separately, people simply don’t like being surprised by movies. I fail to see being surprised is a bad thing. I like both parts and feel that they don’t completely clash in a bad combination, but that they compliment each other perfectly.
Quentin Tarantino took a directing hiatus for a while which he says officially began when “From Dusk Till’ Dawn” finished wrapping up. Tarantino wrote and starred in “From Dusk Till’ Dawn” but did not direct it. He left that job to his good friend and fellow director Robert Rodriguez. This is not the only time Tarantino has written a movie but not directed it. He wrote “True Romance“, and “Natural Born Killers” but did not direct. Tarantino was very disappointed with how “Natural Born Killers” turned out and I think the movie would have been much better if he had directed it. He is great at portraying violent characters and can give a deep insight to twisted minds and motives.
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are a filmmaking dream team and work so well together. Separately they are my two favorite directors so having them together is just amazing. They have also worked on “Four Rooms” (the two of them each did one part out of the 4), “Sin City“. Tarantino was a special guest director who did one scene in the movie. The reason for this was because Rodriguez wanted to introduce Tarantino to filming digitally), “Grindhouse“. Each directed a full movie shown back to back, and Tarantino also acted in both. In Desperado Tarantino acted as the pick up guy, which is a much smaller part than the trailers led to believe while Rodriguez was the writer/director.
“From Dusk Till’ Dawn” opens with a scene that takes place in a Benny’s World of Liquor. This was actually the last to be filmed because it was the only time Michael Parks was available. Now here is my theory about Michael Parks in the Rodriguez/Tarantino movies: Michael Parks has been in “Kill Bill” (Vol 1-2), “Death Proof“, and “Planet Terror” (collectively “Grindhouse”), and of course “From Dusk Till’ Dawn” all playing the same character. Earl McGraw. Now if you take that into account to find the chronology of the character you get something rather interesting. Earl McGraw gets killed in “From Dusk Till Dawn”, that means that he must have survived through the events in the other movies that the character has been in. That is a great accomplishment seeing as he was in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Planet Terror has Earl McGraw fighting his way though zombie sickos but he survives. The end of the film shows most of the world in ruin, with completely destroyed cities in the wasteland. Since Earl McGraw doesn’t die during the Zombie Apocalypse and instead in a Liquor store, that means that he survived all the destruction and that Texas (where both movies are set) has been completely rebuilt and life has adjusted back to normal in just a short amount of time. I guess Planet Terror has a happy ending after all.
Back to the opening. The first scene sets up the style for the first half of the movie and introduces us to the characters of Seth and Richard Gecko. played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. Seth Gecko is the man, he is awesome, and Richard Gecko is a mentally unstable, highly volatile sexual offender. I think he is one of the most interesting characters ever committed to film. Maybe not the best, maybe not the coolest but the most interesting. He has a line that I believe reveals much more about the character than most people think:
Seth: “Put in your bit”
Richard puts in a retainer and gives a strong look at Juliette Lewis. Richard: “I grind my teeth”. Something as simple as that line adds so much to how we view Richard.
The first half of the movie is great and feels like classic Tarantino. There is suspense and the character of Richie could fill a whole movie. The second half of the movie feels more like pure Robert Rodriguez style. Aside from the fact that Rodriguez movies are always set in either Texas or Mexico (this movie has both locations) the action that fills the second half is more Rodriguez-esque as well. The horror element is definitely there, but it is not scary-horror it is fun-horror, which when executed correctly is just great.
Cheech Marin is in the movie, so is Cheech Marin, and Cheech Marin too (he plays 3 roles). He first appears as a border patrol cop, then as the bar greeter “Chet Pussy”, and then he shows up again as Carlos, the guy that the Geckos are meeting in Mexico. Cheech is in other Robert Rodriguez movies, such as “Desperado”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, and Machete. On a side note about Cheech’s roles in the Mexico trilogy: sometimes people think that Cheech is playing the same character in both movies but I believe he is not. Cheech plays a bartender in both but they are different people. The evidence needed is that they are different bars which doesn’t really prove anything. In the credits of “Desperado” he is listed as “short bartender” and in “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” he is listed as “Belini”. The most compelling evidence is that Cheech was killed in “Desperado”, but in “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” his character has an eye-patch. In “Machete” a character gets shot in the eye and then comes back with an eye-patch. But Cheech from “Desperado” wasn’t shot in the eye, he was shot in the middle of the head. So it is definitely not the same character (that tangent should probably belong in a “Desperado” review but whatever).
Tom Savini (who did the effects for George Romero movies such as “Dawn of the Dead) plays a role in the movie, the character Sex Machine. This character is awesome he uses a whip and a special dick gun. The same cod-piece weapon is seen in the guitar case in “Desperado” although it is never used. Tom Savini ends up changing into a vampire, which is dissapointing that you can’t see him kill anymore vampires, but as a vampire himself he does the most damage. He also transforms into a weird baby bat, which looks like a huge rat.
Fred “The Hammer” Williamson is in “From Dusk Till Dawn” as well. Fred was in a lot of grindhouse movies, which is why they picked him for the role of Frost. Danny Trejo plays the bartender Razor Charlie, and is good (as he always is). He is in almost all of Rodriguez’s movies.
After the first wave of attacks there is a group of survivors that make an awesome team. They’re eventually killed off until there are only 2 of them left. There is a great part in the break that is a clear tribute to classic horror movies, where they are discussing how to kill vampires. Now the vampires do not look like traditional vamps, not even close. They look more like demons, lizards, and rats. Sometimes they actually look like bats, but they don’t look like the classic Bela Lugosi, with slicked hair and a black cape. I have heard people defend “Twilight” saying that it is a new take on vampires, and that people don’t like it because they don’t like change. That is not true. If you want to see vampires done differently than the classic archetype, then watch from “Dusk Till Dawn”. “Twilight” is not a new take on vampires, it is a disgrace to vampires. I hate when people (especially younger people) think that the vampires in “Twilight” are how vampires should be, or supposed to be.
There is a particular vampire in the movie that has a mouth for a stomach, and uses it to eat people’s heads. You probably didn’t see it because it was removed from the movie for going too far. It is rumored that Quentin Tarantino puked when he saw the effect happen. The scene where it ate the head was removed but the creature itself stayed. You can see the vampire with the mouth stomach walking around still, just without the gory payoff.
Salma Hayek‘s role is much smaller than you would imagine, judging from the poster and trailers. She does however bridge the two sections together. Her super sexy dance in the middle connects the crime-thriller to the horror. You also sort of get the feeling that she is the leader of the vampires.
Juliette Lewis on the other hand plays a large role in the movie. She is also in another movie that Tarantino wrote but did not direct; “Natural Born Killers.” I don’t really like Juliette Lewis, I just hate her voice, but in this movie she does a good job. Her character goes through an age regression, in my eyes anyway. When I saw her for the first time in the diner I thought that she was Jacob’s young wife. Obviously that isn’t the case. As the movie goes on she looks younger and younger, until the end where she looks like just a little girl. Just my opinion though. Usually you would expect someone going around killing vampires to look older in doing so, not younger. Not a literal regression of course. Her character is completely screwed at the end of the movie. Her whole family is dead, she is in Mexico, and the only other person she knows leaves her at the bar alone. Sucks for her.
Harvey Keitel is also great. This is the 3rd time he has worked with Tarantino. His character has a very good story arc, and he’s awesome when he starts killing the vampires with his holy cross shotgun.
“From Dusk Till Dawn” is a great cult favorite horror movie, that everyone should see!