From Dusk Till Dawn is an Unlikely Vampire Story

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Review

What kind of a vampire movie do you get when you put together Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino together in a film? Not a very normal one –at the very least, that’s what From Dusk Till Dawn is. It’s a crazy action movie that starts off like a violent hostage drama and then suddenly drops the whole “vampires exist” thing on the laps of unsuspecting audiences as if it were the most normal thing in the world. If you like vampire-themed films, this one is worth a watch for the sheer novelty of it, but those seeking a good narrative that revolves around vampires will be sorely disappointed.

That’s Not How Robbery Works

The movie follows the story of Seth and Richard. When the film starts, the brothers are at a liquor store and they kill the local sheriff and the cashier. As the narrative implies, they have just successfully robbed a bank and the two are heading to Mexico. The movie goes out of its way (with an implied rape and murder scene) to show the difference between the two men: Richard is a violent and murderous killer while Seth is a theif with a higher moral standard (though he seems to tolerate and understand his brother). En route, they kidnap a pastor (Jacob), his daughter (Kate), and his adopted Asian son (Scott).

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Review

The movie suddenly makes a sudden genre switch when the group finally reach the Titty Twister, a strip club. During the performance of what appears to be the top billing stripper, Santanico Pandemonium, the woman transforms into a vampire and attacks Richard. The other members of the strip club transform as well and start assaulting the audience –along with the very surprised protagonists.

Seth, Jacob, Kate, Scott and some of the other survivors manage to fight back against the vampires –with some of them creating improvised weapons out of the strip bar’s furnishings and tools. As the battle continues, Jacob and Scott are both bitten and fall. The movie ends with only Seth and Kate left alive and the two split up. The ending scene reveals that the strip club was on top of the ruins of an ancient Aztec temple that contains the accumulated items of the bar’s victims across ages.

Monster of the Week

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Review

While the film does have vampires, there is very little about them that feels special –aside from the main stripper and the way that the ending tries to imply a much bigger story. This movie, on its own, merely adds vampires as a garden variety monster –they are powerful and scary, but nonetheless interchangeable with any other monster. So no, a vampire movie this really isn’t –they can be replaced with werewolves and the story does not change at all. Though there is something pretty wicked and cool with some of the improv-weapons used in the film, among which is an auto-stabbing wooden stake.

The cool part is that the film has inspired a TV series with the same name –in the series, the story goes a little deeper into the whole Aztec bit that was shown briefly at the end of the movie. It gives the movie a bigger unimplied depth that would otherwise be not present.

Too Much Tongue in Cheek

When you put together Rodriguez and Tarantino, you can always count on the two of them to add something crude to the mix. The unedited cut of the film features a lot of very lurid lines –including one spoken by actress Juliette Lewis (who plays Kate) during a scene in which Richard is hallucinating that Kate is propositioning him for a sexual act. And of course, the big genre switch midway through the film is what gives it a degree of fame among movie buffs.

In any case, From Dusk Till Dawn is a cult classic (whether it is deserving of the status or not, we cannot deny that it is). And any horror film buff (especially those who like vampires) worth their salt should be familiar with it. The pacing is pretty decent, in that intermittently jarring style that Robert Rodriguez does. So despite this movie being over a couple of decades old, it managed to age well.