“Everybody be cool.” swaggers George Clooney’s impossibly charismatic career criminal, directly into the camera, near the start of From Dusk Till Dawn, “You, be cool.”. It was painfully obvious from the numerous interviews they had done prior but geek, indie overlords Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were, indeed, cool, boasting some impressive genre knowledge on the junkets while doing press for their earlier pictures. These twin lifetimes of horror worship finally got a chance to get yo on the screen where it belonged in 1996 with the Grindhouse inspired horror/crime blowout From Dusk To Dawn.
Essentially the an audacious blending of the styles of two separate filmmakers who gleefully united to create a nutso blend of bullets, booze, boobs and bloodsuckers, From Dusk Till Dawn
After being bloodily busted out of jail by his brother, Richie, we pick up with professional bad guy Seth Gecko with his sibling in tow as they attempt to stay ahead of the law. After a memorably explosive stop off at a liquor store, the brothers head toward the mexican border with a hostage locked in their trunk in order to do a deal with Carlos, a kingpin who will offer them sanctuary for a fee, however, Seth’s plan hits a gruesome hiccup due to the fact that Richie is a dangerously impulsive and deluded sex criminal and after he can’t keep his unsettling urges to himself, the Gecko Brothers finally find themselves down one hostage and one plan to sneak across the border.
Enter Jacob Fuller – a preacher who has lost his faith after the death of his wife – and his two kids, daughter Kate and adopted son Scott, who roll up to the motel the Gecko’s are hiding out in in a sizable mobile home big enough to smuggle everyone into Mexico. They are promptly taken hostage at gunpoint and just like that, the plan is back on – but tensions rise as the two families struggle to maintain an uneasy truce thanks to the unpredictable actions of Richie who is imagining that the virginal Kate is whispering some very lewd suggestions to him that he’s itching to put into action. However, once through the border, the honorable Seth relaxes as the home straight is finally in sight as they arrive at the meeting place, an insanely raucous bar tailor made for bikers and truckers modestly dubbed the Twitty Twister and the group settles down and wait until dawn when everyone can go their separate ways.
But hold up! Not so fast guys! In a plot twist that feels born from a bong hit, all the strippers and staff of the Titty Twister turn out to be a highly aggressive breed of vampires who use their bar as a cover to normally prey on nomadic road users. After surviving a gargantuan and gory bar fight that would make John Wayne shat his chaps, the survivors try to fortify the bar before the second wave surges in on leathery bat wings of death. All the living have to do is survive – from dusk till dawn…
Essentially a movie of three sections that audaciously takes the hallmarks of both auteurs and gradually bleeds them together to create sort of a thematic double Bill that worked way better than their later, more obvious attempt, Grindhouse. The first section takes the form of a crime thriller as Seth and Richie strive to cross the Mexican border after a daring jail break is pure Tarantino that sees the usual mixture of stylish conversations and brutal acts of violence, whereas the second these established characters pull up at the Titty Twister the second, transitional phase kicks in as our leads realise they’ve unwittingly wandered out of one genre and ended up in another one entirely. The third section of the movie is unfettered Rodriguez through and through, furiously channeling Sam Raimi’s, anything goes Evil Dead sensibilities through a haze of a Tequila buzz, the movie ends on a delirious sprint that throws in everything but the kitchen sink as giant rat monsters, shotgun crucifixes and a crotch mounted pistol are all hurled at the screen in a giddy celebration of grue, guts and great big monsters.
I already knew about From Dusk Till Dawn’s far-out, mid-film flip months in advance, but I’ve always wondered, as a life-long horror nut, what it would have been like if I’d gone into the movie completely cold. As it stands, Rodriguez’s opus of titties and teeth proves to be an enjoyably misshapen juggernaut of coolness that, for best results, should be started sober but essential that you must be nicely trashed the time our characters head into one of cinema’s greatest shitholes it’s ever seen.
The cast is winningly game with George Clooney, still zesty fresh from leaving ER, proving that he’s nothing short of a fucking star as the gun wielding, neck twitching personification of cool. Elsewhere, the notoriously serious Harvey Keitel lets his hair down as the mourning Jacob and while he’s still technically the movie’s straight man, Rodriguez still let’s him do awesome shit like impale a vamp with a shotgun and blast others through the hole in it’s back like if Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing turned up to work with a tab of LSD under his tongue. In comparison, Tarantino’s acting job as bespectacled sex case Richie isn’t anywhere as cringeworthy as it could have been thanks to the fact that his character’s supposed to be a chattering weirdo anyway – although the fact he wrote himself a scene where he sucks booze from a stripper’s toes still stands as one of cinema’s most impressive red flags. Elsewhere, Julliette Lewis may just simply transport her teenage girl routine over from Cape Fear wholesale, but she’s proves to be the likable, innocent heart of a movie full of bat-faced wraiths, motor-mouthed rapists and special effects legend Tom Savini playing a bull whip cracking biker named Sex Machine.
Tarantino and Rodriguez seem to getting a legitimate kick out of teaming the cream of Hollywood elite with some cult character actors and joining Savini is Fred Williamson’s bulky Vietnam vet, Cheech Marin in a plethora of roles (most infamously a vagina-fixated MC memorably named Chet Pussy), Danny Trejo being Danny Trejo and Salma Hayek effortlessly melting celluloid as the shapely villainess (as in she literally changes shape) Santanico Pandemonium.
A timely and awesome case that weird, violent, goofy trash can be just as cinematic as more prudish fare that doesn’t have a neck tattooed Dr. Doug Ross killing wiry bloodsuckers with a stake mounted jackhammer; From Dusk Till Dawn unveils its ridiculous twist, its amoral heroes and an army of goopy creatures to show that there’s no shame in embracing a gleefully crass mind fuck when this much talent is involved.
The filmmaking epitome of a booze soaked fuck yeah!