From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)


 Not surprisingly, when long time film making pals Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up to make a horror movie, in the end it felt like two different movies. For folks unaware of the duo’s style of writing and film making, the second half will completely blow away anyone entrenched in the crime drama that is the first half of the film. “From Dusk Till Dawn” begins like a hyper violent take off of “Reservoir Dogs.” Seth Gecko and his brother Richie have broken out of jail leaving a trail of bodies behind, and are now hiding out in a gas station. Just their luck a sheriff comes in to chat with the owner, and thanks to a series of mishaps, Seth and Richie leave the gas station and its workers dead in a hail of gunfire and flames.

The opening gives us an insight in to the two characters that will prepare us for the rest of the film. Seth is the older brother who is by the book, a professional, and will do whatever it takes to get the point across that he runs the show. His brother Richie is completely off balance, psychotic, and immensely blood thirsty. Seth loves Richie so much he’s unwilling to turn against Richie, even when Richie is clearly being an irrational mental case. Like typical Tarantino, the Geckos are fast talking, cold, and calculating bastards who wear dark suits, and are capable of slaughtering a room of people to instill order. When they decide to meet up with a group of gangsters in Mexico, the Geckos take a family hostage. Just their luck the family is run by a widowed man named Jacob who was once a preacher. After the death of his wife, he lost faith and his children spend their days trying to talk him back in to serving the lord again.

Once The Geckos and the Fullers establish their uneasy pact and enter in to Mexico, it becomes Rodriguez’s territory. Cheech Marin plays three roles as three different characters, Danny Trejo appears as a bar tender, and Robert Rodriguez also performs with his band in the middle of nowhere bar known as “The Titty Twister.” The bar has everything the Geckos need and intend to stay the night drinking until morning. That’s where the movie takes a Southwest twist, as the residents are all a gallery of Rodriguez’s favorite people, and surely enough the Geckos and Fullers discover they’re in a bar filled with blood sucking vampires. “The Titty Twister” is an alluring trap with a large neon sign that lures bikers and truckers in from all corners like a fluorescent lamp, and lulls them in to security with naked gorgeous women and booze.

Before long when a misunderstanding occurs, The Geckos set off a chain of events that lead the bar’s denizens to unleash a fury of blood shed on the bar patrons, slaughtering the entire bar of hapless bikers and truckers who unwittingly become dinner for the ravenous vampires. “From Dusk Till Dawn” is a rapid fire and mind blowing little action horror picture that takes the best from Tarantino and Rodriguez and flips it on its ass dipping it in to a blood soaked sea of vampires. No character is left spared as Rodriguez unleashes the full on fury of the vampiric night club with a sequence that’s absolutely incredible, and establishes who is set to live and who is set to die by the tooth and nail. This is the “Reservoir Dogs” with a twist of “Near Dark” set to the tune of “Assault on Precinct 13.”

Every minor role has a purpose, and the creative pair have a good time with their cast, giving Fred Williamson a spotlight, as well as Tom Savini who plays the immortal “Sex Machine.” Seth becomes the inadvertent hero of the piece only by circumstance and has no choice but to team up with his hostages, the Fuller Family, when the shit hits the fan. By sheer irony, he ends up needing them just as much as they need him. And with typical Tarantino, when the dust has settled he’s still the greedy gangster. The vampires depicted in this film are hardly sensitive or romantic. They’re ugly, vicious, merciless, and blood thirsty, and do whatever it takes to ensure a meal. Even tearing the arms off of someone.

George Clooney, in his only horror role to date, gives a ballistic performance as the gangster Seth Gecko who has to fight for his life, while Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, and Harvey Keitel are bittersweet as the disjointed Fuller family who have to come together and make their peace when the vampires gain the upper hand mid-way. “From Dusk Till Dawn” is that perfect party horror movie that’s infinitely rewatchable. It’s filled with quick one-liners, top notch performances, and endless laugh out loud moments that double as genuine scares. Despite the low budget, every cast member puts their A game in the film, and “From Dusk Till Dawn” remains that genuinely excellent nineties horror film that you simply can’t help but adore.