Retro Review: From Dusk ’til Dawn

Ben Harthem/The Jibsheet
Ben Harthem/The Jibsheet

Quentin Tarentino is known for his witty dialogue, bloody action, and a seeming fetish for out-of-the-trunk shots. Robert Rodriguez is known for his work on gritty action movies and a penchant for casting Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and Danny Trejo.
The two have often been compared to each other, and their styles show many similarities. Perhaps it is for this reason that they collaborate so often, and I mean often. Hell, Tarentino loaned a bunch of swords he used in “Kill Bill” to Rodriguez for use in “Sin City,” and Rodriguez returned the favor by writing some original music for “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” and was paid only a dollar for the service.
But perhaps my favorite Tarentino/Rodriguez mash-up takes the form of “From Dusk ‘till Dawn”, an action-horror flick that came out back in 1996, written by Tarentino and directed by Rodriguez. Why is it my personal favorite? Good question…
The movie opens in a decidedly Tarentinoesque manner; a cop and a liquor store owner chat a bit about a bank robbery, exchange friendly insults, and banter. The cop leaves to use the can. SUDDENLY, George Clooney. As it turns out, the infamous bank robbers Seth (Clooney) and Richie (Tarentino) Gecko have the store owner and several patrons hostage, and the over-paranoid Richie screams that the owner was signaling to the cop. The owner denies it. He gets a bullet in the arm for his trouble. A gunfight ensues, and the two murderous criminals set the place ablaze.
It is already quite obvious that Richie is insane. Of course, Tarentino wrote himself a crazy role – what else would you expect?
SUDDENLY, Harvey Keitel. Ex-preacher Jacob and his teenaged kids Scott and Kate sit at a table in a diner, talking about plot related things like dead wives and losses of faith. Yawn. Now back to the deranged psychos!
The Gecko brothers, being held hostage in the tunk (cue out-of-the-trunk shot) stop at a motel. While Seth is out setting up a meeting with someone who will grant them asylum, Richie rapes and murders the hostage – he’s even crazier than previously suspected.
Unluckily for Jacob and kin, they decide to stop at the same motel, where the Geckos take them hostage to use their RV to escape into Mexico. Richie hallucinates Kate making lewd advances towards him. (The rapist is hallucinating that the teenage girl has a thing for him.) This does not bode well.
They all load up into the RV and drive to the boarder. After a brief adventure with the border guard, they make it into Mexico, to a strip club known as the “Titty Twister”. Charming, eh?
Seth walks into the club, promptly gets in a fight, then proceeds to get himself (and the kids) a couple of shots. Some more dialogue later… SUDDENLY, Salma Hayek snake dance enters. And let me tell you that dance could harden an overcooked strand of spaghetti, so long as it was male.
Remember that fight I mentioned? Well the losers come back pissed as hell and stab Richie through the hand, causing him to bleed profusely. Salma Hayek looks rather hungry, until…
SUDDENLY, vampires. You heard me right. This sub-par Tarentino crime drama suddenly turns into something straight out of Army of Darkness – Blade, or Buffy. Huge amounts of blood and gore, a man named Sex Machine with a codpiece-revolver, and a massive black Vietnam Vet who rips out vampire hearts with his bare hands.
As I watched, I could not help but laugh at the sheer absurdity and awesomeness of what I was seeing. I saw table legs used as stakes, I saw heads erupting in fountains of blood, I saw arms being ripped off and used as clubs; I saw it, and it was good.
As in any good vampire slaying movie, a few of the humans’ turn, and trap the survivors in a storage closet full of old junk. One rousing George Clooney speech later, they begin a weapon-assembling montage; constructing a stake-jackhammer, a holy water squirt-gun, a cross/shotgun, a crossbow, and holy water condom grenades. Absolute win.
More people die, awesomeness ensues, and eventually the only people left are Seth and Kate, surrounded by ravenous vamps.
SUDDENLY, sunlight. They shoot holes in the walls, which: shed light on the disco ball, which causes all the vampires to explode. In a giant fireball. They narrowly escape, go their seperate ways, and the camera zooms out to reveal that the bar is in fact the top of a buried Aztec temple, which somehow has something to do with vampires.
The win is so hard to comprehend, it’s almost hard to breath. I give it an 8 out of 10.