“I thought all the blood had been shed long ago…dark night.”-The Blasters
Twenty years ago this week, a film premiered that was a love letter to the 70s/80s horror gore flicks that were obsessed upon by the youth of the day with its nonstop action, blood, and over the top special effects. Such films back in the gory years, were the delight to many a teenager, weirdoes, horror hounds, and faithful Fangoria readers. What used to be considered sick is now considered darkly humorous. Gore fans who were once outcasts are now hip, and it’s on screen attack of the senses, are tame compared to today’s viewing standards. Without further ado, bring out your first row Gallagher tarp, you’ll need it, as we dissect and dive into the bloody fun world of the award winning, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).
We are dropped into dusty, hot South Texas spending the day with the criminal Gecko brothers, calm but brooding, Seth, George Clooney of Hail, Caesar! (2016), and psychotic pervert, Richard, Quentin Tarantino of The Hateful Eight (2015). Seth busts out his kid brother Richard from prison, robs a bank (we don’t see the heist), and are enroute to Mexico for a rendezvous with Carlos, Cheech Marin of Up in Smoke (1978), their contact to cash in, get off the grid, and live a quiet life south of the border. Unfortunately, cops are and Texas Rangers are killed in the process of capturing these public enemies of the law. The brothers run into the law again while making a quick pit stop at a liquor store. A shootout ensues with Texas Ranger McGraw, Michael Parks of Tusk (2014), Richard receives a nasty bullet wound to the hand, the Geckos blow the place up, and hightail it out of Dodge, while it is revealed that there is a prisoner in the trunk. Ahh, the spoils of war. Roll opening credits.
The blood brothers need a beard to scoot by Mexican authorities at the border and hijack the Winnebago of Minister Jacob Fuller, Harvey Keitel of Reservoir Dogs (1992) who is at a crossroads with his faith, and his kids, Juliette Lewis of Natural Born Killers (1994) and Scott, Ernest Liu of The Westing Game (1997) on their family trip. After much wordplay for close to an hour, in typical Tarantino fashion, our cast discover safe passage across the border, a guard played by Marin, with their final being the oversexed neon nightspot, the Titty Twister. With a lewd and funny carnival barker of sorts, Chet, Cheech Marin again, this locale is a dingy topless bar in the outskirts of nowhere, which is a favorite of vagabonds, drifters, bikers, truckers who’ve wandered off the straight and narrow looking for a good time while being bad.
Like the first day of orientation at prison, the Gecko brothers must prove to the ill-tempered bartender, Danny Trejo of Machete (2010), and other patrons that they are indeed full of grit and testicular fortitude just to have a drink. After tempers simmer, smoke and libidos rise when the voluptuous Santánico Pandemónium (inspired by 1975’s Mexican nunsploitation classic, Santánico Pandemonium: La Sexoristo), Salma Hayek of Desperado (1995), quiets the motley crew of ruffians with her provocative stage show, boa constrictor and all. This seductive dance of curves and reptile, is nothing more than the turn key to the next chapter of our tale. Our little film goes from being a crime film to a 100% gore drenched, special effects extravaganza vampire flick!
The bar goes on lockdown like an afterhours rave but this time rather than steering clear of annoying junkies and bad electronic music, our heroes must fight vampires backed by really good music (The soundtrack is fangtastic). The Gecko Brothers (a nod to the Frog Bros of The Lost Boys), Jacob and his brood, join forces with tough guys, Sex Machine, Tom Savini of Dawn of the Dead (1978) with his love gun, and Frost, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson of Black Caesar (1973) to battle the boozy bloodsuckers.
The action is fast, cartoonish at times, and the Karo and red food coloring flow by the gallon. The 12 year old you, will find much delight in this hilarious ride of vampires, dirty language & dismemberment. Inside nods to earlier films that only true fans and nerds (I am one) will truly enjoy as it makes references to Django (1966), The Wild Bunch (1969), Blacula (1972), The Getaway (1972), Race with the Devil (1975), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), just to name a few.
From Dusk Till Dawn was directed by Robert Rodriguez of Planet Terror (2007) with a screenplay by Tarantino based off an original story by special effects makeup effects guru, Robert Kurtzman of Army of Darkness (1992). From Dusk was shot on a budget of $19 million and raked in approximately $25 million. Met at first with mixed reviews, From Dusk has gone on to reach the status of a cult classic and is often played on late night cable. With such a fan base over the years, it has spawned sequels From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (2000), and From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (2014) developed by Rodriguez for his El Rey network. From Dusk was even popular enough to release a third person shoot ‘em up video game for PC in 2001. Not bad for a silly splatter film trying to capture the old drive-in fun a decade later before Rodriguez and Tarantino would make their ode to the fun Grindhouse (2007).
From Dusk Till Dawn is a violent viewing experience full of blood, explosions, gross out gore…and a good time. Rodriguez and Tarantino are the epitome of movie buffs, geeks, and students of anything they watched in their formative years. Also for you Walking Dead (2010) fans, director/special effects makeup virtuoso, Greg Nicotero of Day of the Dead (1985), has a small part as one of the Savini’s (his career mentor) sidekicks.
If you haven’t seen From Dusk Till Dawn, be a MexiCAN and not a MexiCAN’T—and watch it today. “Alright ramblers, let’s get ramblin’.”
Check out From Dusk Till Dawn Trailer
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- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Twitter Rick Baldwin @RickBaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org