With Robert Rodriguez’s violent and vivacious vampire movie you get a brilliant bargain because From Dusk till Dawn is really two movies in one and both are great.
Opening on a liquor store in the middle of nowhere we meet Seth (George Clooney) and Richie Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) two outlaw brothers on the run from robbing a bank and leaving several people dead in their wake.
After their literally explosive introduction we follow them as they attempt to flee across the boarder into Mexico hijacking an RV and the family inside lead by a Pastor having a crisis of faith played superbly and subtly by Harvey Keitel.
Succeeding in escaping the authorities the brutal brothers take their captives to a bar to wait a contact that will grant them a new life south of the boarder. It is here in the classily named Titty Twister that the film takes a twist into the realms of horror as the strip bar turns out to be a nest of vampires.
The kidnapped and their captives must now band together with some unlikely aid to fight the unholy army and survive the night From Dusk till Dawn when they will once again be safe from the hell on earth they have walked into.
Most people remembering Rodriguez’s riotous horror film will talk only about the second act which much like his latter horror homage Planet Terror (also known as the better half of Grindhouse) revels in the over the top horror which dominated the 80’s.
Amazing weapons, spectacular deaths, cheesy but brilliant special effects all combine to make an all out action horror full of fun set in a Mexican Dracula’s castle chock full of fanged females.
But with no sign of a blood sucker for the first hour what many people usually forget is the first half, a dialogue packed character piece that can have only been penned by Quentin Tarantino himself who here takes the role of the nerdy and psychotic Richie against Clooney’s cool as a cucumber Seth.
An excellent exploration into tension and character creation the opening of From Dusk till Dawn must have fooled many audience members expecting a horror film but the movies triumph is in making us wait a process which not only builds and confounds our expectations but gives us time to truly understand and care about the people who find themselves in such peril latter on .
Hints of horror are still present in the first part not only in the violence perpetrated by the brothers who are anything but heroes at the start but also in the excellently filmed scene in the motel room where Seth discovers what Richie has done to their first captive a chillingly simple moment of realistic horror which is the uncomfortable flipside of the fantasy blood letting found latter on.
Tarantino’s simmering and switchblade sharp script is delivered by a top-notch cast including a surprisingly good performance from himself. Clooney and Keitel excellently portray two opposites who must find a common ground of respect when faced with the unbelievable yet life-threatening attack of the vampiristic undead.
Juliette Lewis plays the wholesome preachers daughter and Salma Hayek acts as her polar opposite as queen of the strippers and the vampires. To keep horror and film buffs happy is a quartet of cult cameos with Danny Trejo, Blaxplotation star Fred Williamson, special effects master Tom Savini and Rodriguez regular Cheech Marin playing three parts and delivering the most memorable speech of the piece, a diatribe on the myriad of varieties of pussy on offer to all who enter the dammed bar.
Wonderfully directed and acted with a witty and quotable script From Dusk till Dawn is two brilliant films in one perfect package with enough weight and seriousness in one act to brilliantly balance out the action and fun in the final half.